Public Health England has highlighted that survival outcomes for oesophageal cancer (also known as ‘adenocarcinoma’) among men in the UK are the worst in the world. In a drive to improve survival rates, Public Health England has launched a campaign to highlight the symptoms of the diseases as it is hoped that earlier diagnosis will improve the chances of survival for around 950 people each year. 

The UK has the highest rate of oesophageal cancer in men and women within the EU and oesophago-gastric cancers are the fourth and fifth most common type of cancer death in males and females in England respectively. Figures published by Public Health England confirm that around 12,900 people are diagnosed with these cancers each year of which 10,000 people will die. The main causes are thought to be smoking, rising obesity levels, a lack of fruit and vegetables in our diet and regular alcohol consumption. 

The campaign is mainly targeted at the general population aged over 50 as the key risk factor for both oesophageal and stomach cancers is increasing age. It is estimated that more than 95% of oesophago-gastric cancers are diagnosed in people in this age bracket. 

Symptoms of oesophago-gastric cancers can include intermittent indigestion for three weeks or more, feeling food sticking in your throat when you swallow, pain or discomfort in top of stomach, trapped wind and frequent burping, nausea or vomiting, and losing weight for no obvious reason. 

Public Health England urges anyone suffering from these symptoms to make an appointment with their GP so that their concerns can be discussed. If the GP believes that the reported symptoms require further investigation, a referral should be made to a specialist for further tests. 

Naomi Holland, an associate in the Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team, comments: "As this campaign highlights, too many patients suffering with oesophago-gastric cancers are not being diagnosed early enough causing a significant detrimental impact on their prognosis. 

“While campaigns such as this are crucial to educating and raise awareness among the population, it is equally important that doctors in primary care are aware of the symptoms. We quite often see clinical negligence cases where the symptoms are attributed to “heart burn”, acid reflux or stress and treated accordingly. These significant delays in diagnosis will have a knock on effect on survival rates.”