News and Campaigns
The COVID-19 emergency has put an enormous strain on NHS resources and has preoccupied the Government for some weeks during the 'lockdown' that started on 23 March.
Non-urgent endoscopy examinations and some other procedures are currently being carefully reviewed because of the potential risk of aerosol-borne infections from a patient's airways and we are hoping that solutions will soon be found for this dilemma.
The NHS is still dealing with cases involving potential cancer, and it is important that if people are experiencing symptoms such as swallowing difficulties or persistent digestive problems they consult their GP so that their case can be properly assessed.
The Michael Blake Foundation
The Michael Blake Foundation, a charity that has been one of our supporters for some years, has now closed and, after consulting the Charity Commission, has transferred their remaining funds to Action Against Heartburn because of the similarity of our aims. We thoroughly appreciate the commitment of their trustees and all their volunteers and supporters for the cause and we will continue to move forward in memory of Michael Blake, and indeed so many other people who have died as the result of oesophago-gastric cancer.
Barriers to Research Report published, November 2019
The Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce has published its report into the issue of some cancers being relatively under-funded as far as research is concerned. This is really serious as those cancers, including oesophageal, account for over half of cancer deaths, and their 5-year survival rate is less than 20% and yet research is not directed towards these cancers. Sometimes it is an issue of momentum, and young scientists not being drawn into research because there are better opportunities elsewhere. We believe that there should be specific calls for research into these cancers, and more research into how to diagnose them early, even if it does not amount to a cure. That is because the outcomes when the cancer is diagnosed early are so much better than when it is diagnosed at stages 3 and 4. The full report is here:
Pharmacy Bag Campaign
Our pharmacy bag campaign is scheduled to commence on 4 March 2019 in selected pharmacies in SE London / NW Kent, aiming to create a public health message directly aimed at customers of local pharmacies. This campaign was made possible by a generous grant from the Company of Actuaries Charitable Fund, for which we are extremely grateful. The bags feature the 'Know Your ABC' message, and a reproduction of our campaign poster
Know Your ABC!
We have adopted 'Know Your ABC' from our Barretts Oesophagus UK colleagues and will be using this on a planned pharmacy bag campaign in SE London. This has been made possible by a generous grant from the Company of Actuaries.
NHS (England) 10 year plan aims to increase early diagnosis
The NHS 10 year plan published in January 2019 aims to raise the proportion of cancers diagnosed at stages 1 and 2 from around 50% to 75% by 2019. This will apply to all cancers, not just the more survivable ones. This would make a dramatic difference to oesophageal cancer, and it could be achieved with investment into diagnostic techniques like Cytosponge and breath tests. We also need to raise awareness of potential danger symptoms like persistent heartburn and difficulty in swallowing.
February - Oesophageal Cancer Awareness Month
February marks our campaign to promote awareness of the symptoms that could indicate a risk of oesophageal cancer. Our prime target are those who are regular users of over-the-counter heartburn medication whose symptoms may be masking more serious conditions such as oesophageal adenocarcinoma. We distribute posters and leaflets to pharmacies, GP surgeries, dental practices and other public places. We also have posters, leaflets and car window stickers available on request.
Welcome to our Northern Ireland colleagues!
We are delighted that OGCancer NI have joined Action Against Heartburn and look forward to helping each other out in helping to promote earlier diagnosis and prevention of oesophageal cancer.
Welcome NICE guidance on diet advice for those having surgery
Action Against Heartburn agrees with the new Quality Statements published by NICE on 13 December 2018 that patients undergoing oesophago-gastric cancer surgery should have access to advice from specialist dieticians. These aspects are very important for the recovery of so many patients because of the changes to the digestion system that are side effects of the surgery. These side effects have not always been properly recognised and treated.
The Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce has started the #28BY29 campaign to encourage the Government to aim to double the survival rate of the six less survivable cancers - oesophageal, stomach, pancreatic, lung, brain and liver - within the ten year period of the next cancer strategy. This can, we believe, be achieved through more resources being allocated to research, screening and treatments. A petition to allow people to sho support for this case has been started by the Brain Tumour charity and supported by the other charities involved. https://chn.ge/2y5Xct2
Basingstoke bench helps raise awareness
Congratulations to Beryl Huntingdon of HCUK who bought a special Girl Power Bookbench at a charity auction and arranged a permanent home for it at Basingstoke's Discovery Centre, as reported in the Basingstoke Gazette 2 November 2017. All in the cause of raising awareness of persistent heartburn's links to potential cancer. (Image from Basingstoke Gazette)
Non endoscopic screening - Research Update
There are many people who suffer from troubling heartburn, and it only a small minority who will have developed Barrett's Oesophagus or cancer. Endoscopy is the means by which any problems can be definitively diagnosed, but developing a test that can be administered in GP surgeries would be a great step forward in this process.
Cytosponge is a 'pill on a string', aims to identify patients with Barrett's Oesophagus and is currently being assessed in a trial called BEST3 led by Prof Rebecca Fitzgerald
Breath testing for volatile organic compounds would identify adenocarcinoma in the oesophagus or stomach, and research is being led by Prof George Hanna at Imperial College, London. A number of different cancers can be detected by breath tests. http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_23-6-2015-9-40-47
The SPIT project is based on saliva and is being researched to identify biomarkers for oesophageal, and then colon and pancreatic cancer, led from University College London by Professor Laurence Lovat. Prediction of oesophageal adenocarcinoma can be impressive, especially when linked to a questionnaire about reflux history and cancer risks.
Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce
Action Against Heartburn is a founder member of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce (Launch date 19 July 2017 at Parliament). This group of charities campaigns for more research, monitoring and attention to be given to the cancers that have less than 20% 5-year survival rate, in contrast to many of the better known and better resourced cancer initiatives. These cancers represent about half of UK cancer deaths but progress has often been slow or non-existent compared with the good progress made against other cancers.
1-year and 5-year survival rates by cancer type, stage and group, England, up to 2011–2015.
Hannah McConnell et al. BMJ Open 2017;7:e016797
This analysis shows the very distinct research and development needs of different cancer groups according to the impact on quality of life in long term survival; or simply to reach the improvements in short term survival achieved by other cancers some decades ago.
Our Medical Advisor - Dr Jason Dunn
We are delighted to welcome Dr Jason Dunn as our medical advisor. Jason is a consultant gastroenterologist at St Thomas' hospital and a member of the Oesophageal Committee of the British Society of Gastroenterology whose special interests include Barrett's Oesophagus and the prevetnion of oesophageal cancer.
Oesophageal Cancer Westminster Campaign report
In January 2016, the Westminster campaign published an important report about the geographical variations in treatment for Barrett's Oesophagus
Bethany Brown running in New York marathon
We are delighted to announce that Bethany Brown is running in the New York marathon to support Action Against Heartburn. We wish her great success and the best of luck in preparing for the big day on 1 November 2015. To sponsor Bethany, please visit her Justgiving page: www.justgiving.com/Beth-Brown5
UPDATE: Beth finished in 4 hours 40 minutes and as at 9 November she has raised £1,634! Congratulations!
Action Against Heartburn at the 2015 London Marathon
With a grant from National Lottery's 'Awards for All' we have begun a campaign in Norfolk to coincide with the 'Be Clear on Cancer' campaign running from 26 January to 28 February 2015. Along with adverts and posters, our radio ads are running on Heart East Anglia and on Future Radio. Future Radio have also featured an interview which you can hear with this link.
We are delighted to announce that Ash Soni OBE, the President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, has agreed to act as Pharmaceutical Advisor to Action Against Heartburn. Pharmacists play an important role in relation to people who suffer from persistent heartburn, as many of their customers are regular consumers of over-the-counter heartburn remedies like Gaviscon, Rennies or Tums. Advice from pharmacists can play an important role in referring people to their GP and on for a proper investigation of underlying causes.
Point To Your Oesophagus Campaign
Launched on 4 January 2015, this campaign run by Barrett's Wessex, encourages people to point to their oesophagus, post a photograph on social media and then nominate somebody else to do the same. The public's knowledge is low about where their oesophagus is, what it does - the food tube between throat and stomach - and the importance of getting persistent heartburn properly checked, so this campaign aims to develop awareness in advance of Public Health England's Be Clear on Cancer campaign due to start on 26 January 2015.
Oesophageal Cancer Westminster Campaign
Mike Thornton (top) MP for Eastleigh, David Heyes, MP for Ashton under Lyne, and Heather Wheeler, MP for South Derbyshire, were amongst those who signed the campaign pledge on oesophageal cancer
on 13 October 2014 at a well attended rally and reception at Westminster.
The pledge draws attention to the fact that more than 70% of the oesophageal cancer cases in the UK are associated with Barrett's Oesophagus, that awareness of this amongst the public and health professionals is low, and that access to early diagnosis and treatment for Barrett's Oesophagus reduces the likelihood of developing cancer which saves lives and is cost-effective for the NHS. The pledge ends 'We believe that NHS England should support guidance and referral of patients with persistent heartburn and those at risk of Barrett's Oesophagus. In addition we fully support the Be Clear on Cancer campaign and its extension across the NHS to the rest of England"
Radio Ad campaign starts on 15 September
Thanks to a grant from Rowlands Trust a 5-week radio ad campaign starts on 15 September 2014 in the West Midlands area, aimed at long term users of over-the-counter heartburn remedies who ought to visit their GP and get checked out for underlying problems. If you are not a listener on the Birmingham Free Radio Network you can listen here
We collaborate with the Oesophageal Cancer Westminster Campaign that was launched on 12 May 2014 by Mike Thornton MP (Lib Dem, Eastleigh) with support from Sir Tony Baldry MP (Conservative, Banbury), David Heyes MP (Labour, Ashton under Lyne) and Stephen Metcalfe MP (Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock).
The next major event will be a lobby at Westminster (1.30pm - 4pm) on Monday 13 October 2014, followed by a reception on the terrace of the House of Commons from 4 - 6pm that day.
So please write to your MP. Ask them if they will meet you at Westminster on 13 October to talk about this important public health issue, and will they write to Jeremy Hunt MP, the Secretary of State for Health, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, Westminster SW1A 2NS to support our 10 point plan to help save lives through earlier diagnosis of oesophageal cancer
Helpful Editorial for GPs
The March edition of the British Journal of General Practice has published a clear and helpful editorial 'Heartburn, Barrett's oesophagus and Cancer: Implications for Primary Care' by Professor Tony Watson and Dr John Galloway, a GP with a special interest in gastroenterology.
Listen to this!
Surgeon Tim Underwood from Southampton set out these issues very clearly in the BBC's Inside Health programme on Radio 4 on 6 November 2013. You can listen again through the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b019dl1b
The surgeons see all too clearly the number of patients who come to them too late for curative
surgery. If we diagnosed more cases of Barrett's Oesophagus we would be able to catch many more cases before the late stage swallowing difficulties.
The Government's Be Clear on Cancer Campaign goes regional
Under the leadership of Sean Duffy, the National Clinical Director of Cancer, the Be Clear on Cancer campaign on oesophago-gastric cancer will feature a regional campaign in the North-East of England in February 2014. This will involve TV and radio adverts, as well as posters and other publicity material. The emphasis will be on investigating the underlying causes of persistent heartburn, and follows the local pilot campaigns that resulted in a 20% increase in diagnosis of oesophageal cancer (177 to 212 cases) without undue pressure on other NHS resources.
We are delighted with this development and will be assisting the campaign in any way we can.
BMJ Learning Module about Barrett's Oesophagus
The BMJ Learning Module, developed with the help of HCAS, is now available for GPs and others to learn more about the management of Barrett's Oesophagus. It is an excellent resource on a subject about which many GPs have expressed the wish to have more knowledge. To go the the BMJ learning site, click here.
Wandsworth and other Campaign pilots
Action Against Heartburn supports the Department of Health's plans for pilot campaigns on Be Clear on Cancer took place in 2012. There were seven local pilot schemes, and we understand that 35 additional cases of oesophageal cancer were diagnosed as a result. They took place in the following areas:
- Hertfordshire, Luton & South Bedfordshire
- Sandwell & Wolverhampton
- Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Norfolk, Suffolk, Great Yarmouth & Waveney
- North of the Tyne, South of the Tyne & Wear, Cumbria, Darlington, Tees, Hartlepool
A decision is expected in the autumn of 2013 about whether these campaigns will be made into a regional campaign in 2014.
Wadsworth Rotary Club
Our sincere appreciation goes to Wadsworth Rotary Club who have donated £1500 to the OPA which will support this campaign.
HCAS - another charity supporting the Campaign
Mimi McCord, the Chairman of Heartburn Cancer Awareness and Support has expressed her charity's support for the Action Against Heartburn campaign, saying"...HCAS wholeheartedly endorses the AAH Campaign"
David Moss and friends choose Action Against Heartburn for their sponsored charity
David Moss and friends are walking part of the South West coast path in the Spring of 2013 to rasie money for Action Against Heartburn. Well done lads! We hope that as many people as possible can support the team. £533 raised! Congratulations!
You can give direct to them through Justgiving
Cytosponge screening could reduce cancer
A recent publication (Tatiana Benaglia and others, Health Benefits and Cost Effectiveness of Endoscopic and Nonendoscopic Cytosponge Screening for Barrett's Esophagus: Gastroenterology Vol 144, 1, pp 62-73.e6, Jan 2013) used microsimulation modelling to demonstrate that screening 50-year-old men with symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease with cytosponge is cost effective and would reduce mortality from esophageal adenocarcinoma compared with no screening. The modelling assumed, based on research experience, that participants would accept invitations to undergo screening by cytosponge more readily than by endoscopy (45% compared to 23%).
Cytosponge is a sponge within a small capsule that a patient swallows at, for instance, a GP's surgery. It is then drawn back up and the sample sent off for analysis. At present it is only available on a research basis, but, in due course, the device might have a significant effect on how patients are screened.