THE survival rate for one of the most dreaded diseases, oesophageal cancer, has improved dramatically since the 1990s.
But too many people are still ignoring warning signs, cancer specialist Prof John Reynolds has warned.
Prof Reynolds of St James's hospital in Dublin said around half of the 450 new patients diagnosed with the cancer are now diagnosed early enough for a chance of a cure and the survival rate has risen from 25pc to 45pc.
He was speaking at the launch of Lollipop Day which takes place tomorrow and on Saturday to raise awareness of the cancer and generate funds for research.
Ireland has one of the highest rates of oesophageal cancer in Europe and the numbers diagnosed a year will rise to 815 by 2035. Prof Reynolds said a register of around 2,000 patients who have Barretts Oesophagus, a long-term condition which leads to regurgitation of acid and is a risk factor for the cancer, has now been set up.
Other risk factors include chronic heartburn, smoking, heavy alcohol use and obesity. Health Minister Dr James Reilly, whose mother died of the disease, said it was essential that people be aware of possible symptoms.
"If you have indigestion, constant pain behind your breast bone or between your shoulders or unexplained weight loss talk to your doctor," he said.
"We have debunked and destigmatised cancer and early detection leads to much better outcomes. But we need a lot more work and research to be done."