According to a health campaign, having heartburn most days for three weeks or more can be a sign of cancer.
A national Be Clear on Cancer campaign launch coincides with results of a new survey commissioned by Public Health England. The survey revealed only one in two people (55%) would visit their doctor if they had heartburn most days for three weeks or more.
This health issue can be a sign of oesophageal (esophageal) or stomach cancer, the campaign warns.
Of the 1,046 people surveyed only 59% knew that heartburn could be a sign of cancer, with just 15% knowing for certain that it is a symptom.
Early diagnosis of esophageal or stomach cancer – also known as esophago-gastric cancers – is crucial and means treatment is more likely to be successful. Esophago-gastric cancers are the fourth and fifth most common cause of cancer death in men and women respectively. 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.
67% of those diagnosed with esophago-gastric cancers at the earliest stage survive for at least 5 years, but this figure drops to around 3% for those diagnosed at a late stage.
The campaign also highlighted difficulty swallowing food as a symptom.
About 70% of those surveyed did not know that food sticking in the throat could be a sign of cancer and only 13% knew for sure that it was a symptom.
Researchers urge people to take their health seriously, and contact a doctor if they believe something is not right.