Oesophageal and Gastric Cancer (Collectively known as upper gastro-intestinal cancers)
Upper GI cancers are potentially life-threatening abnormal growths which occur in the oesophagus (gullet or food pipe) and stomach. Oesophageal cancer is far more common than stomach cancers.
The rate at which it is being diagnosed is increasing faster than any other cancer in the UK. It affects men more than women and is more common as we get older. Approximately 9,000 new cases are diagnosed every year in the UK.
Upper GI cancers can cause a range of symptoms or problems, including;
- Sensation of food sticking when you swallow
- New indigestion or heartburn which is not relieved by medication
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained loss of appetite
- Tiredness and anaemia
The easiest way to diagnose these cancers is by undergoing a gastroscopy which involves swallowing a thin camera. There are a range of treatments available depending on how early the cancer is diagnosed as well as how fit and well the patient is.
The main risk factors for upper GI cancers are smoking, being overweight, infection with H. Pylori, excess alcohol intake and gastro-oesophageal reflux (GORD).
Gastro-oesophageal Reflux (GORD)
The main symptoms of GORD are:
- heartburn – a burning sensation in the middle of your chest
- an unpleasant sour taste in your mouth, caused by stomach acid
Other symptoms can include:
- a cough or hiccups that keep coming back
- a hoarse voice
- bad breath
- bloating and feeling sick
Symptoms will probably be worse after eating, when lying down and when bending over.
Causes of GORD
Lots of people get heartburn from time to time. There’s often no obvious reason why.
Sometimes it’s caused or made worse by:
- certain food and drink – such as coffee, alcohol, chocolate and fatty or spicy foods
- being overweight
- stress and anxiety
- some medicines, such as anti-inflammatory painkillers (like ibuprofen)
- when part of your stomach moves up into your chest (Hiatus Hernia)
The mainstay of treatment for GORD revolves arounds a combination of weight loss, avoidance of clear dietary triggers and the use of antacid medication. The most common is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) such as Omeprazole, Lansoprazole etc. If this does not control symptoms there are a number of procedures that can physically reduce reflux such as Fundiplication, LINX and Stretta procedures.
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