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Don’t ignore the burn: NHS launches new cancer awareness campaign in Tameside

A new NHS campaign is being launched in Tameside to raise awareness of the link between heartburn, indigestion and gullet cancer.

Posters will be displayed at prominent sites including supermarkets and roadside locations in Greater Manchester – including on Stockport Road and Old Street, Ashton, as well as adverts on pharmacy bags in the Ashton area and on radio, social media, libraries and in GP surgeries across Tameside and Greater Manchester.

Heartburn – a burning sensation in the middle of your chest – and indigestion – a pain or discomfort in your tummy – might sometimes be shrugged off or put down to drinking too much alcohol or something you have eaten.

But the new NHS campaign wants to make it clear to the public – particularly those over 55 – that if symptoms last for three weeks or more then it’s time to visit your doctor.

The campaign – led by Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance – urges men in particular but anyone over 55 who has had heartburn or indigestion that lasts three weeks or more then visit their doctor.

The campaign also draws attention to difficulty swallowing or food getting stuck as another potential symptom of gullet cancer that people – whatever their age – need to act on by going to their GP.

The new campaign coincides with Men’s Health Week (10 to 16 June) and is particularly aimed at men aged 55 and over who are more likely to get oesophageal cancer. It is being run by the Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance – which as part of the NHS and plays a crucial role in improving people’s overall experience of getting diagnosed and treated for cancer.

Eye-catching posters draw people’s attention to the chest area with the words ‘heartburn for three weeks or more’ emblazoned across men and women’s chests.

The posters urge people to make sure they “don’t ignore the burn” and visit their doctor if their heartburn lasts three weeks or more.

Another poster highlights indigestion with a man clutching his tummy and urges people to see their doctor if symptoms last for three weeks or more.

A third poster focuses on the food pipe and stresses the importance of going to your doctor if you have difficulty swallowing or it feels like food is getting stuck.

Mr Javed Sultan, a leading doctor specialising in gullet cancer from the NHS Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance, said: “We know lots of people will have had heartburn – a burning sensation in the middle of your chest – and or indigestion – often described as a pain or discomfort in your tummy after food – at one time or another. The thing to look out for – especially if you are aged 55 or older – is if your heartburn or your indigestion lasts three weeks or more. If that happens it’s time to visit your doctor.

“We also know some people might get over the counter medicines bought in pharmacies or supermarkets to treat these symptoms. If you find yourself going back again and again to get these medicines, then again it is time to see your doctor.

“This campaign is about getting people to visit their doctor with potential symptoms of gullet cancer earlier. The chances are it won’t be cancer, but we know the earlier cancer is caught the better the chances are for successful treatment.”

Julie Thompson, Information Manager at Guts UK, said: “We’ve worked with the Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance to help develop this awareness campaign for people in Greater Manchester.

“Raising awareness of heartburn and indigestion is vital. These are two key things people should pay attention to, especially if they last for three weeks or more. We encourage anyone who has been experiencing these symptoms for three weeks or more to visit their doctor. You know your body best and it’s always best to get such symptoms checked.”

David Jones-Stanley, who was diagnosed with gullet cancer, also known as oesophageal cancer in October 2021 has also helped work on the campaign. He said: “I know first-hand the importance of early detection and treatment. This campaign highlights the common symptoms of gullet cancer, and hopefully it will empower people to seek medical advice sooner and improve outcomes.”

If you are over 55 and have heartburn or indigestion that lasts three weeks or more then visit your doctor.

If you have difficulty swallowing or it feels like food is getting stuck then you should also visit your doctor.

For more information about the signs and symptoms of gullet cancer see https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/oesophageal-cancer/symptoms/

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