Oesophageal Patients Association

Parliamentary Debate on 22 February

On Thursday 22 February around 3pm there will be a Parliamentary backbench debate about the Government's cancer strategy. Which is very timely as it comes in Oesophageal Cancer Awareness Month, and two days after the anniversary of the death of broadcaster Steve Hewlett who died of oesophageal cancer.

You can help by emailing or writing to your MP drawing their attention to the debate and asking for their support for measures to improve early diagnosis for oesophageal cancer.

You can find out who your MP is here


Email them, or write to them at the House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA

Tell them your person story, and consider adding the following information (copy and pasting as you deem fit):

Oesophageal cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in the UK.

70% of oesophageal cancer is adenocarcinoma, a disease in which the UK is reported as having the highest incidence in the world. Other parts of the world have high incidence of oesophageal cancer, but this tends to be squamous cell cancer which is different in its causes.

Over half the cancer deaths in the UK come from the less survivable cancers like oesophageal, stomach, pancreatic, liver, brain and lung cancers, where often there has been little sign of much progress over the last few decades, in contrast to, say breast cancer, where survival rates are now very good indeed. The 5 year survival rate for all oesophageal cancer is only about 15% but it is dramatically better when diagnosed in its early stages.

If the Government's strategy on cancer is to reduce cancer deaths, there must be more impact made on early diagnosis of cancers such as oesophageal cancer, which accounts for 7,600 deaths per year.

For oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC), there are excellent opportunities to make an impact on the basis of knowledge and expertise that we have today; it is not dependent on future research. OAC is heavily associated with Barrett's Oesophagus, which is in turn caused by persistent reflux which affects the lining of the oesophagus that cannot cope with stomach acid like a stomach lining can. It is common sense to concentrate on a treatable precursor condition with an easily understood symptom ie persistent heartburn, something that is not a feature for many other cancers at all.

So the Government can target those with persistent heartburn, encourage them to see their GP, who will refer appropriate cases of unresolved heartburn for an endoscopy. Barrett's Oesophagus can be treated by radio frequency ablation, and this can prevent the cancer from developing, but not all treatment centres yet have this equipment.

There should also be more graphic warnings on over-the-counter heartburn medication like Gaviscon and Nexium to supplement the advice about seeing a GP if symptoms persist.

There should also be easier methods of obtaining Barrett's Oesophagus patient consent for their data to be included in research databases. Due to the way that our laws and procedures work, cancer patients are treated as if they automatically consent for their details to be used for research unless they object; for Barrett's Oesophagus, a precursor condition, the reverse is true. Rationalising patient consent would make research into this disease easier.

4 Replies

Hi Alan,

How do you make people aware of the situation I was told almost 3 years ago. I had a problem swallowing for a few months, l went to my GP And was seen by the consulting male nurse, he referred me to a ear nose and throat clinic ,which took 5weeks to get a appointment eventually they referred me to Gastroenterologist after another 3 weeks and a endoscopy I was told I had a tumour in the lower part of my oesophagus which eventually after a ultrasonic endoscopy was a T3 adeno carcinoma.I was one of the very lucky ones who was offered the IL procedure by my surgeon the brilliant Mr Oliver Priest at Stoke University Hospital Iasked him what had caused this cancer,to my amazement, he said he was 90percent sure it had been caused by acid reflux. I told him that I had never suffered with any type of heartburn or reflux in my life! He then Said that I was one of the “unlucky ones” who had suffered with LPR ( silent reflux) The point I am making is - how do you make people aware of the symptoms of LPR - which for me was a silent “assassin” also do the consulting nurses at the surgery’s we attend ,need more education on “red light “symptoms , because I personally think I should have been fast tracked though the system by him. But I must say that once I was diagnosed the nurses,endoscopy consultants, oncologist everybody concerned with NHS team were brilliant and without their professional skills I would not be here today.


You are quite right about the problems of silent reflux. I think having an endoscopy at an early stage would help. I am told that in the past, doctors could not prescribe Omeprazole for more than a few weeks without referring patients for an endoscopy; I think the pendulum has swung too far the other way, and that doctors should be more liberal about referring patients for tests to diagnose underlying issues. There is a line between referral to a gastroenterologist and the ENT departments. I think most of them do work closely together, but it would be nice of some of these tests could be arranged for same hospital visit. There are quite a lot of issues that should ring alarm bells - and difficulty in swallowing for three weeks or more has been one of them featured in the Government's Be Clear on Cancer campaigns in the past.

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Hi Alan, Totally agree with your comments.Appreciate your reply.

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My cancer was detected during an endoscopy to check on a stomach ulcer that had been treated earlier. It was very early, I was very lucky. I strongly believe that all over the counter treatments for indegestion should carry a health warning especially the ones which include a ppi.This should apply to tv and radio adverising too. I stopped using ppi four years ago.


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