Awareness Campaign

Every so often we have had discussions about how important it is to catch this cancer early - when the outcomes are likely to be so much more positive, and the idea of encouraging the public to go to their doctor when they have problems. There have been adverts about going to your doctor with blood in your poo, blood in your urine, coughs etc that do not clear up after 3 weeks. Now, after a lot of discussions, it looks like the Government are going to include oesophago-gastric cancer as a regional campaign in this 'Be Clear on Cancer' advertising strategy. This is because local pilot campaigns were successful in detecting more cancers. It looks like it might be taking place in February, and would involve TV and radio advertising, with posters and shelf wobblers (those little adverts between the shelves on plastic stalks) in pharmacies. So let's hope that this will be just as positive. There will be quite a bit of work done with GPs in the region so that more referrals for endoscopy are catered for.

The Director of Cancer Services, Sean Duffy, who took over from Sir Mike Richards a few months ago, is pushing these campaigns along. There will be a similar venture for ovarian cancer in the North West of England next year as well, and if they are successful, they may end up as national campaigns.

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  • I agree with you Alan, wholeheartedly. My cancer is at an early stage so I may be one of the lucky ones but I suffered with acid reflux, occasional heartburn and indigestion for at least 2 and a half years. I am not one to go to the doctor for the slightest thing and who goes to the doctor with heartburn or indigestion? We don't, we go to the chemist and browse the shelves for an over the counter remedy, so that we don't 'bother the doctor'!! Should over the counter meds be so easily obtainable without some advice from a pharmacist?

    If I knew then what I know now I would have been down the Dr's pronto. People do need to be made aware that symptoms that might seem trivial can become life threatening if ignored.

    Good luck with the campaign

    Nett

  • I suppose because I developed cancer after many years of heartburn I am very keen to encourage people to get this seemingly trivial complaint checked out .

    But it's a fine line isn't it ? I guess not everyone with acid reflux develops cancer and i suppose the costs of testing everyone with on going heartburn would be high ...

    Two other things - I've read that the symptoms of heartburn can cease when the irritation to the gullet causes changes so that the lining of the gullet becomes more like the stomach and thus "tolerates" the acid ( in terms of pain ) better . Thus leading people to think the reflux has ceased .If this is true then I guess that needs to be publicised .

    Also ..is it true that taking ant acids ( as opposed to PPI ) causes a rebound effect in acid production and actually aggravates the condition ? Or is that incorrect ?

    Apologies if this is off topic .

  • I agree wholeheartedly!! My husband, Russ, suffered acid reflux for 3-4 years and did not go to the doctor's until over the counter products failed to bring relief and he was unable to swallow food. He was diagnosed in April with a T3N1M0 adenocarcinoma, had three rounds of ECX chemo followed by an oesophagectomy in July. Ten days post surgery he suffered a suspected leak which led to him contracting mediastinitis, peritonitis, sepsis multi-organ failure, pneumonia, severe atrial fibrilation and then MRSA!! My Miracle Man (so named by the hospital) is very slowly recovering after weeks in ICU and HDU but oh! how he wishes he had gone to the doctor at the outset. Thank goodness there is to be an awareness and publicity campaign about this insidious disease which can be treated more successfully in the early stages. Russ will hopefully be coming home next week but as yet, we do not know what the future holds as regards the cancer. All the family wished for in those dark times when Russ was in ICU was for him to survive the catastrophic complications and come home to us and he is, so we will enjoy every day with our Miracle Man! Good luck to everyone who is fighting this insidious disease.

  • Hi Val ! if it will make you fill any better I had the same illness and treatment as your husband and although I never had a leak, on day six post op I developed a whole list of problems under the general heading of Sepsis, they put me in an enduced coma and wasn't expected to survive, but I did and walked out of the hospital after a month and was back at work after eight months aged 65 !

  • Pleased that your 'miracle man' is going to come home. He has survived such a lot. It must have been very stressful for you and your family. I think public awareness is going to be the way to go if this disease is going to be caught very early. I agree you can't test everybody that has reflux symptoms but if a patient goes to their gp they should perhaps be referred if symptoms still persist after say 6 months. However saying that I had Omeprazole for a year, which worked well, and then had an annual review. So that was a year gone by.

    Apparantly there is a new test for cancer of the gullet, I saw it on tv I think. You swallow a capsule which opens to form a sponge which is then pulled back out, cells from the gullet adhere to that and can be tested for abnormal cells. I don't know what that would cost but would surely be cheaper than treating people with later stage cancer and obviously have a good outcome for the patient.

    I wish your miracle man a speedy recovery once he's home and that you will be able to relax a bit.

    Nett x

  • Agree wholeheartedly with the need for an awareness campaign. In one sense I was lucky as I was more aware than most as the disease killed my father at a comparitvely young age back (he was in his late 50s) - he approached the doctors waaay too late back in 1980.

    This made me approach my GP about 10 years ago when I had ongoing indigestion for a fortnight. Endoscopy found that I had Barrets so every couple of years I had a session with the endoscopists and ongoing dosage with sulfacralate (but don't know if that helped). 14 months back the most recent endoscopy found cancer (T2N0) - followed by a battery of tests and operation 12 months ago - no chemo or radiotherapy was thought necessary - and so far (early days yet) - touch wood, no further recurrence.

    It's obviously not appropriate to endoscope everyoe but I wonder if anyone has thought about a saliva test or something like that.

    One final question - is there any heridatry factor with this cancer? It not only killed my father but also my uncle - and I'm trying to persuade my younger brother to get himself checked.

  • I think there are one or two genetic codes that have been identified that make it more likely, but this represents only a small proportion of cases. But I also believe that there is in the UK somewhere a rare case of a strong family connection.

    In the pipeline is a cytosponge test. You swallow a capsule on a string and the GP then pulls it back up when it has opened up as a sponge, and sends it off to the path lab for analysis. If we could get a reliable diagnostic test at a GP's clinic it would be a really good step forward.

  • we don't have any cancer in our family so was very surprised by my diagnosis

  • I helped with the pilot campaign in Hertfordshire last year. I hadn't received any feedback on how effective it was, so it's nice to hear that it was successful in detecting more cases of eosophago-gastric cancer. We handed out hundreds of leaflets and spoke to lots of people. It was astonishing how many people we spoke to who had suffered from persistent acid reflux for several years, but had not been to their doctor. I even spoke to a few who had difficulty swallowing, but still hadn't sought medical advice. I'm glad to hear that the campaign is going to be rolled out nationally. All the best. G

  • Yes an awareness campaign is needed because cancer can strike any gender at any age. I was a healthy 42 year old vegetarian female that didn't smoke or drink excessively & walked daily when I was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The only symptom I had was bread getting stuck. If. This raised an alarm bell with my nurse practitioner who sent me for a barium swallow. I am now 14 months post full gastrectomy op but I am concerned that most people especially men,self diagnose & just treat themselves over the counter with Gaviscon and then when the symptoms are severe, it is usually too late for the cancer to be successfully treated. Raise awareness now!!

  • It may be a small step but I have submitted a short article to our local newspaper, it carries articles about health matters so it seems apropriate. I stuck to my own experience and provided web addresses for more professional information and advice. We are a small community so info spreads quite fast, and we have lost one or two known characters to this dreadful disease. Perhaps others could follow suit as waiting for politicians to act is not known for its speed of implementation. Would it be possible to produce a standard press release for us all to adopt.

  • Articles in local newspapers are an excellent idea, and it certainly resonates when we know of individuals who have succumbed to oesophageal cancer.

    We are at the House of Commons tomorrow raising political awareness and I will let you know how we get on. There is a brief about oesophageal cancer on the Action Against Heartburn website here: actionagainstheartburn.org....

    We'll adopt your suggestion and put something like a standard press release in the next few days.

    Thanks again!

    Alan

  • I took advantage of my coming up to the five year mark to send a message to all my facebook 'friends'. As is quite common these days they are spread across the world, I pressed home the issue of early diagnosis. Not surprising most are well past middle age and the replies were encouraging. Most have also passed on to their friends, so the net spread very quickly. Could this be another way to get the message out there? I still find Facebook a bit of a mystery but at last I have found a use for it.

  • It's about time the general public were warned about cancer of the gullet. I had my Ivor Lewis surgery in 2012 and have yet to meet anyone of any age that knew that years of persistent acid reflux can cause this illness.

    I myself went to my doctors many times over the years with persistent heartburn but was never referred for an endoscope until it was too late, the public must be warned about this increasing illness.

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