The WWL Way
Telephone: 01942 244 000

Be Clear on Cancer - WWL raises awareness for Oesophago-Gastric Cancer

Newsdate: 12 February 2015

Pictured: Left to Right, Ann Anderton, Dr Richard Keld, Christine Peel, David GarringtonFebruary marks the nation-wide NHS ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign.

Across the country from 26 January to 22 February, the NHS and cancer charities are promoting awareness of oesophago-gastric cancer. These cancers affect the oesophagus (more commonly known as the food-pipe), and the stomach.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) have got on-board with the campaign and, to raise awareness, Upper Gastro-Intestinal professionals at Wigan Hospital have spoken out about the disease.

Dr Richard Keld, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Lead Clinician for Upper GI Cancer at WWL, said: “This campaign is highly important in raising awareness of the symptoms of oesophago-gastric cancers and the signs that people should know to look out for.

“On average, two people are diagnosed every week in the Wigan Borough for these types of cancers.Our aim is to make sure that people know what to look for so that we can diagnose at an earlier stage, and save more lives.”

One of the key messages of ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ is to keep an eye on prolonged heartburn.

Dr Keld said: “If you have heartburn for more than three weeks, you should go to see your GP right away.”

Another symptom to watch out for is food sticking when swallowed. “This too can be a sign of oesophago-gastric cancer and it is important to have it checked out as soon as possible”, said Dr Keld.

He said: “Referrals have already gone up which is great. Only 1 in 10 people with prolonged heartburn like this will have cancer, but it is still important to get checked.”

Upper GI cancers are the fourth most common type of cancer in men and the fifth most common in women.

Amongst the symptoms, Dr Keld also stressed the importance of referrals for those who suffer with a condition called Barrett’s Oesophagus. Barrett’s Oesophagus is a pre-cancerous condition, of which only 1 in 100 or 1 in 200 will be diagnosed with cancer, however these people must be checked out in order to catch any potential cancer in its early stages.

As part of WWLs campaign, two survivors of oesophago-gastric cancer gave their version of their ordeal, and how early diagnosis saved their lives.

Mary Hollingsworth, 71, former Wigan cancer patient, said: “My cancer came so out of the blue. I had never had any serious health problems.

“I suffered one bout of really painful indigestion, and it was the first time that it had happened. I just decided to go to the doctor because I was going on holiday, and I didn’t want to risk ruining the experience by having discomfort.”

“The doctor sent me for an examination, and that was it, they told me that I had Barrett’s Oesphagus and oesophagus cancer and I began my treatment. It all happened within a matter of weeks.”

Mary has come forward to tell her story so that other people may realise the importance of recognising any early symptoms and getting checked out immediately.

“I would urge anyone who feels that they may have symptoms such as continuous heartburn or terrible indigestion, like I did, to go to your doctor. I was very lucky, my early diagnosis saved my life and I hope that this campaign can save the lives on many others.”
David Garrington, 73, also talked about his experience when he was diagnosed with cancer of the gullet. David said: “I found out I had cancer about five years ago. I had been on holiday and wasn’t eating nearly as much as I used to.

“I found this particularly strange, so when I returned home I went straight to the doctor, explained what was wrong, and asked for an endoscopy.My GP was fantastic, he referred me straight away. And that was when they found out that I have oesophagus cancer.

“Oesophagus cancer is very operable as long as there are no other secondary cancers. In my case, we had caught it in time, and 9 months later during the August Bank Holiday I was celebrating with my friends on the beach with champagne and salmon.”

“I hope that everyone can be as lucky as me.  I have no complaints about anything. The cancer was caught early so I had a very clear idea of when my treatment would be done, and when it would be finished.”

These stories of survival show that like in the cases of Mary and David, Upper GI cancers can and will be treated if they are caught early on.

Christine Peel, and Ann Anderton, both Macmillan Upper GI Clinical Nurse Specialists at WWL, have set up a support group with a £500 grant from Macmillan, to help those who are suffering with, or have suffered from Oesophago-Gastric Cancers.

Ann said: “The support group are fantastic, they are very supportive and pro-active. The group is very mixed and they work a lot with the Trust and other organisations to improve patient liaision.”

Christine said: “This is a very privileged job that we have. Psychologically, the impact is massive for people who have been diagnosed, and it can be very difficult for people to get back to normal.

“The purpose of the group is not only to help those who have been recently diagnosed, but also to change the way that people deal with long-term survivorship.”

The Upper GI Cancer Support Group meet bi-monthly. The next meeting is at St Peter’s Pavillion in Hindley on Monday 16 March from 1pm – 3pm.

Pictured above: Left to Right, Ann Anderton, Dr Richard Keld, Christine Peel, David Garrington