If you have had heartburn most days for three weeks or more, tell your doctor.
Every year, around 12,900 people in England are diagnosed with oesophageal or stomach cancer. Around 10,200 die from these cancers annually.
Knowing what to look out for saves lives
Both cancers affect men and women, although they are more common in men. Most people diagnosed with these cancers are over 50.
Smokers have a much higher risk, which is also increased by: regular consumption of alcohol or salt; being overweight; other medical conditions such as Barrett’s oesophagus or Heliobacter pylori.
A small number of cases can be attributed to previous exposure to radiation for medical reasons (e.g. radiotherapy for previous cancers).
If you have had heartburn most days for three weeks or more, tell your doctor straight away. The chances are it’s nothing serious, but these cancers are more treatable if they are found early.
Heartburn most days for three weeks or more is a key symptom for both types of cancer.
Other oesophageal or stomach cancer symptoms include:
food sticking when you swallow
losing weight for no obvious reason
trapped wind and frequent burping
feeling full very quickly when eating
feeling bloated after eating
nausea or vomiting
pain or discomfort in your upper tummy area
How your GP can help
You’re not wasting anyone’s time by getting your symptoms checked out and, if it’s not serious, your mind will be put at rest. But if it is a condition such as oesophageal or stomach cancer, early detection makes it easier to treat.
Seeing your doctor early could save your life.
Having symptoms doesn’t mean its cancer. It could be something else that needs treating and if it is nothing serious you will feel happier. But don’t try and diagnose yourself. Go and see your doctor now to find out for sure.
Looking out for others
If you know anyone who has any of these symptoms, insist they see their doctor.
Reduce your risk
A healthy lifestyle can reduce your chances of getting cancer, including diet, being a healthy weight and not smoking.
It’s never too late to quit. No matter what age you stop smoking, it reduces your chances of developing kidney or bladder cancer and makes a real difference to your health in general. There’s plenty of support and help available from the NHS. Visit smokefree.nhs.uk or call 0800 169 0169.
Look after yourself
Try to maintain a healthy weight and keep active. Swimming, cycling, dancing – the more you can do, the better. Even walking to your local shops instead of taking the car can make a difference.
Try to get your 5-a-day. So eat more vegetables and fruit, fish and wholegrain foods. Eat less fattening foods like cakes and pastries and fewer processed meats like bacon and ham.