Persistent heartburn 'could be a sign of cancer', new survey warns

Approximately 12,900 people in England are diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers each year

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A health campaign is urging people not to ignore heartburn because it could be a sign of cancer.

Public Health England’s campaign ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ was launched on Monday 26 January and asks people who have been suffering from heartburn for three weeks or more to visit their doctor, as it could be a sign of oesophageal or stomach cancer.

The campaign coincides with results from a new survey that suggests just 1 in 2 people (55 per cent) would organise a visit to their doctor if they had heartburn for three weeks. According to the findings, 59 per cent of respondents were unaware that heartburn could be a sign of cancer.

The difficulty of swallowing food was cited as another symptom that few knew could be a sign of cancer. 70 per cent of those surveyed were unaware that it can be a symptom.

Approximately 12,900 people in England are diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers each year. These cancers are the fourth and fifth most common cause of cancer death in men and women respectively.

This may be due to smoking, low consumption of fruit and vegetables over time, rising obesity levels and consuming alcohol on a regular basis.


Of those diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers, more than 9 out of 10 people are over the age of 50, making this the target age group for the campaign.

Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England, said: “Early diagnosis of cancer is absolutely critical to improving survival. Part of this is helping people understand what symptoms to look out for, which is why campaigns like this are so important.”

Professor Michael Griffin, Professor of Surgery at the Northern Oesophago-gastric Unit, urged people to visit their doctors if they were experiencing potential symptoms

“You won’t be wasting your doctor’s time,” he said. “You will either get reassurance that it isn’t cancer, or if it is, you will have a better chance of successful treatment.

The four-week campaign will see adverts run nationally throughout England on TV, radio, and in the press.