Game-changing heartburn health checks rolled out to detect cancer

A revolutionary new test to help the earlier detection of oesophageal cancer (cancer of the food pipe) is to be rolled out in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes, in a partnership between the local Integrated Care Board, the East of England Cancer Alliance and Cyted Ltd.  The test has the potential to save lives by identifying the early warning signs of oesophageal cancer.

The news comes as the UK marks the start of Oesophageal Cancer Awareness Month (February).

The innovative test uses capsules that are swallowed to collect cells from the oesophagus, in a process which takes less than 10 minutes.  This non-invasive procedure is particularly beneficial for monitoring patients who experience chronic heartburn and those with Barrett’s oesophagus, a pre-cancerous condition.

Dr Sarah Whiteman, Chief Medical Officer for Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board said:

“We’re delighted to be bringing innovations like the Heartburn Health Check to our local area, and believe this could be a real game-changer for people who develop oesophageal cancer.

“This type of cancer is usually detected late because there are few symptoms in the early stages, but early detection can make all the difference to the diagnosis, treatment and outcome for local people.

“Tests like this are so important because we have a lower take up of routine screening in BLMK than in other parts of the country and so the easier it is to test, the more lives we can save.”

If you have any symptoms and you don’t know why you have them, speak to your GP or contact NHS 111, who will give you advice and arrange for you to talk to a doctor if you need to.

Selected patients from Priory Gardens Medical Centre in Dunstable and London Road Surgery in Bedford will be invited to undergo the test in the coming months.  In Milton Keynes, patients diagnosed with Barrett’s oesophagus will have the opportunity to take the test at the Community Diagnostic Centre, offering a quicker, simpler and less invasive alternative to traditional endoscopy procedures.

Dr Nasir Hannan, GP Partner at Priory Gardens Surgery said:

“Oesophageal cancer is the sixth largest cause of cancer -related deaths in the entire world. It has been difficult to find an effective screening methodology for this as many people can suffer with symptoms, but very few people actually have oesophageal cancer.

“We are all proud to be part of the efforts of the NHS to help in the early detection of this global disease.”


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