A spotlight will be shone on oesophageal cancer next week, with staff at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust raising awareness of the symptoms that patients need to be aware of.
Oesophageal Awareness Month runs throughout February and the focus will be on this type of Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer of the gullet/food pipe that affects more than 50 people in the borough each year.
Around 8,300 people are diagnosed in the UK every year.
As with many types of cancer, early detection is key and specialist staff will be setting up information stands and talking to visitors between 10am and 2pm on Wednesday 24 February 2016.
Sam King is an Upper GI Clinical Nurse Specialist with the Trust who looks after patients with oesophageal cancer. She is in a team with six gastroenterologists, two registrars and an oncologist who care for people with cancers affecting the oesophagus, stomach, pancreas and primary liver
Sam said: “We really want to highlight the symptoms of oesophageal cancer so that anyone experiencing them takes action.”
Difficulty in swallowing or digesting food
Food coming back up before reaching the stomach (regurgitation) or being sick (vomiting).
Suffering from persistent heartburn or indigestion
Pain when swallowing
A dull pain or discomfort behind the breast bone or in the back.
Unexpected or unexplained weight loss
“In Walsall we have more than 1,100 referrals each year and of these, around 59 go on to have cancer diagnoses,” Sam explained.
“While patients are usually in their 50s and above we do treat people in their 30s and 40s too. We hope this awareness month will get people talking about this type of cancer more and act upon the symptoms.
“Such symptoms need greater investigation involving an endoscopy which is a thin, flexible tube that is placed via your mouth into your oesophagus. There is a tiny light and camera on the end of tube to help see any abnormal area. A small sample of cells (biopsy) can be taken and then examined under a microscope to confirm if a cancer is present.
“The earlier we can treat someone the better the outcome, but sadly, we do see quite a few cases that are too advanced.”
Patients who need surgery go to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
The information stand will be in the main atrium of Walsall Manor Hospital.