WEARSIDERS are being warned about a cancer that kills thousands of people every year, with the launch of a new campaign.
Oesophageal and stomach cancer, known as oesophagogastric cancer, claims the lives of 10,000 people in the UK annually, with the North having among the highest number of cases.
Now, as part of the Be Clear on Cancer campaign, health experts on Wearside are highlighting the symptoms and telling people to see their GP if they are worried.
Nonnie Crawford, director of public health for Sunderland and the North of England Cancer Network, said: “You’re not wasting anyone’s time by getting your symptoms checked out. If it’s nothing then you will put your mind at rest, but if it is cancer then earlier detection makes it easier to treat.”
The main symptoms to look out for are difficulty swallowing and indigestion that lasts for three or more weeks.
While Sarah Rushbrook, network quality and patient safety director of the North of England Cancer Network, wants people to be more aware of the symptoms, she does not want to cause panic every time somebody experiences heartburn.
“I know if I have a hot curry, I will get indigestion. I’ll take a couple of Rennie and I’ll be okay,” said Ms Rushbrook.
“If you’ve had indigestion or heartburn for most of the day, for over three weeks, when it’s become more consistent, that’s when to see your doctor.”
Ms Rushbrook said that often people are scared to get their symptoms checked out as they fear the worst, but she reassured people that going to see their doctor is always the best course of action.
She said: “Some people do have that fear but doctors really want to know, because then they can reassure the patient.
“Often it isn’t a serious problem, but if it is, the earlier the cancer is dealt with, the better the outcome is going to be.”
During the six-week campaign, which will cover the North East and north Cumbria, volunteers will hit the streets to teach people about the warning signs of oesophagogastric cancer, as research in the past has shown that people in the region are less aware than others in the country about the symptoms of cancer.
Literature will also be available in GPs’ surgeries and pharmacies across the region.