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Early diagnosis vital in oesophageal cancer detection

23.04.2008
People with oesophageal cancer are often enduring serious symptoms for over a year before seeking help according to a report launched by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry at Queen’s.

The report, entitled Monitoring Care of Patients with Upper Gastrointestinal cancers: 2005, compares care for patients diagnosed with cancers of the oesophagus and stomach in 1996, 2001 and 2005.

It provides insights into changes which took place as a result of the Campbell Report which was published in 1996 and recommended major improvements to cancer services in Northern Ireland.

Each year around 200 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. It’s twice as common in men as women, is seen more often in deprived groups of the population and survival rates are generally poor. The most common symptom is having difficulty swallowing, one that 80% of patients reported to their GP.

But the good news in the report is a 10% increase in observed survival rates for oesophageal cancer patients one year after surgery. 69% of patients operated on in 1996 were alive a year after their operation while those who underwent surgery in 2005 had 79% survival rates one year later.

Dr Anna Gavin, Director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry said: “The research we have undertaken has shown improved survival for those oesophageal cancer patients who were selected for surgery. This reflects enhanced use of sophisticated diagnostic facilities which have allowed clinicians working in expert teams to select those patients who are most likely to benefit from surgery.

“There was evidence of improved communication between professionals and with patients and increased use of dietetic support for patients which would improve their quality of life. Oesophageal cancer is a serious disease with the risk factors including smoking and alcohol. Most patients had difficulty swallowing. Anyone experiencing difficulty swallowing should contact their own doctor and have their condition assessed, as early diagnosis of any cancer improves the survival.”

Lisa Mitchell | alfa
Further information:
http:// www.qub.ac.uk/nicr

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