Wednesday 16 April 2014

Oesophageal cancer cure rate rising but many leave it too late

Three-year-old Katie-Grace McDonnell of Baldoyle, Co Dublin at the launch of Lollipop Day. Tom Burke

THE cure rate for oesophageal cancer has significantly improved in the past decade, but too many people are still leaving it late to have potential symptoms of the disease checked

The figures come as Lollipop Day, the annual event to raise awareness and funds for the disease, takes place today and tomorrow.

Cancer specialist Prof John Reynolds of St James' Hospital said he has seen a 50pc increase in the cure rate and a rise in the numbers of people presenting early for treatment.

Around 40pc of these cancers are cured, and this increases to 70pc where lymph glands are unaffected by cancer. It is as high as 90pc when the cancer is diagnosed in the earliest stage.

The advice is that anyone suffering swallowing difficulties and long-term or severe persistent reflux symptoms should visit their doctor for a check-up.

Dubliner Mark Kenna (51) said he was told he was within a month of progressing to a serious stage of the disease when he went to see his GP after prolonged heartburn and losing two stone in weight.

The events manager from Foxrock said his difficulty in swallowing was a clear warning, and he should have got the heartburn checked out years before.

He is now cancer free after undergoing chemotherapy and surgery. "My advice to anyone with these symptoms is to have them checked out," he said.

Risk factors include Barrett's oesophagus (regurgitation of acid), a history of heartburn, middle age, being male, smoking, heavy alcohol use and obesity.

Volunteers will be selling lollipops for €2 each. The charity event raised nearly €300,000 last year and the money goes towards awareness and research.

Irish Independent

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