Oesophageal and stomach cancer often do not receive the same level of attention as other types of cancer, according to former consultant orthopaedic surgeon Altaf Hussain. Hussain highlighted the urgent need to address the disparities in status, advocacy, and awareness surrounding these cancers. As someone who began their medical career in the 1970s, Hussain shared his personal connection to the issue, recalling that his early surgical operations involved removing oesophageal cancers.
The severity of the situation was underscored by a recent report from Tenovus Cancer Care titled “A Burning Issue.” In 2020 alone, over 800 individuals in Wales were diagnosed with oesophageal or stomach cancer, amounting to nearly three diagnoses per day. Alarmingly, although these cancers make up only 4.5% of cancer cases, they account for 7.7% of cancer-related deaths. This equates to more than 600 lives lost in 2021, leaving an indelible void in families and communities across Wales.
One of the main challenges is that most cases of oesophageal and stomach cancer are diagnosed at later stages, with over 40% of diagnoses occurring at stage four. In comparison, only 5% of breast cancers are diagnosed at such an advanced stage. Hussain emphasized the critical importance of early detection in improving survival rates for these cancers. However, due to their often vague or absent symptoms, increasing awareness of potential warning signs becomes a challenging endeavor.
To combat this, Tenovus will launch an oesophageal cancer awareness month in February, encouraging individuals experiencing persistent indigestion or prolonged heartburn to consult their general practitioners. Unfortunately, Hussain highlighted that nearly half of patients need to visit their GP more than twice before receiving a referral, and 19% of diagnoses occur in A&E departments in Wales.
Addressing these challenges, Wales’ health minister, Eluned Morgan, outlined efforts to focus on “less survivable” cancers that are harder to detect, limiting treatment options and overall survival rates. One area of concern is the delayed initiation of treatment, with only 54% of individuals on the upper gastrointestinal cancer pathway starting treatment within the recommended 62-day timeframe between January and October 2023.
Baroness Morgan acknowledged the significant pressures on cancer services, with a 53% increase in the number of people being referred for suspected cancer since 2020. She emphasized the pivotal role of GPs in early detection and highlighted the importance of available training and rapid diagnostic systems to support their efforts.
With increased awareness, targeted actions, and the collective spirit of Wales, there is hope for turning the tide against oesophageal and stomach cancer. By prioritizing early detection and investing in improved diagnostic pathways, we can strive for better outcomes for every patient facing these challenges.
FAQs: Oesophageal and Stomach Cancer
1. Why are oesophageal and stomach cancers often overlooked?
– These types of cancers do not receive the same level of attention as other types of cancer, resulting in disparities in status, advocacy, and awareness.
2. How many individuals in Wales were diagnosed with oesophageal or stomach cancer in 2020?
– In 2020, over 800 individuals in Wales were diagnosed with these cancers, amounting to nearly three diagnoses per day.
3. What percentage of cancer-related deaths do oesophageal and stomach cancers account for?
– These cancers account for 7.7% of cancer-related deaths, although they make up only 4.5% of cancer cases.
4. At what stage are most cases of oesophageal and stomach cancer diagnosed?
– Over 40% of diagnoses occur at stage four, which is an advanced stage of the disease.
5. How does the early detection of oesophageal and stomach cancers impact survival rates?
– Early detection is critical in improving survival rates for these cancers.
6. What are some challenges in increasing awareness for oesophageal and stomach cancer warning signs?
– These cancers often have vague or absent symptoms, making it challenging to raise awareness of potential warning signs.
7. What initiative will Tenovus launch to raise oesophageal cancer awareness?
– Tenovus will launch an oesophageal cancer awareness month in February, encouraging individuals with persistent indigestion or prolonged heartburn to consult their general practitioners.
8. How many patients need to visit their GP more than twice before receiving a referral?
– Nearly half of patients need to visit their GP more than twice before receiving a referral for oesophageal or stomach cancer.
9. What percentage of diagnoses occur in A&E departments in Wales?
– 19% of diagnoses for oesophageal and stomach cancer occur in A&E departments in Wales.
10. What efforts has Wales’ health minister outlined to address these challenges?
– The health minister has emphasized efforts to focus on “less survivable” cancers, improve treatment initiation timelines, and support GPs in early detection through training and rapid diagnostic systems.
– Oesophageal cancer: Cancer that starts in the cells lining the esophagus, the tube that carries food and liquid from the throat to the stomach.
– Stomach cancer: Cancer that forms in the cells lining the stomach.
– GPs: General Practitioners, primary care physicians who provide initial medical care and refer patients to specialists when needed.
– Diagnoses: Identifying a disease or condition through medical examination and testing.
– A&E departments: Accident and Emergency departments, where individuals seek immediate care for urgent medical conditions.