Have you suffered from heartburn for more than three weeks? A new campaign from Public Health England is urging people who suffer from persistent heartburn to seek medical advice.

As part of the national oesophago-gastric cancer campaign, which runs from 26 January to 22 February 2015, TV adverts, leaflets and posters advise that having long-term heartburn could be a sign of cancer of the stomach or oesophagus.

It is essential to diagnose oesophago-gastric cancers early because it means treatment is more likely to be successful.

However, some GPS have expressed concerns that the heartburn campaign will cause a spike in referrals to overburdened NHS endoscopy services and are worried that ‘scant endoscopy resources’ will be directed towards a condition with a low pick up rate and will ‘result in fewer endoscopies for patients with other conditions such as bowel cancer’, reported Pulse.

Increased pressure on secondary care departments could be alleviated with Peptest – a non-invasive diagnostic device for detecting reflux disease, which works by detecting pepsin in clinical samples of saliva and sputum.

Pepsin can contribute to the pathology of a wide spectrum of conditions including gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). Peptest is a highly accurate diagnostic test with validated performance measures of sensitivity 95% and specificity 89%.

Reflux is a primary risk factor for oesophageal cancer. An early diagnosis of reflux disease will allow a patient to first address their symptoms such as heartburn, difficulty swallowing and regurgitation, through lifestyle & diet changes, medication or surgery.

Professor Peter Dettmar says: “Early diagnosis of oesophago-gastric cancers is essential and means treatment is more likely to be successful. But we believe patients should not be referred for non-urgent reflux-related endoscopy in the first instance unless they have had a negative Peptest ruling out reflux as a cause for their symptoms.”

“This will free up vital endoscopic capacity for urgent cases, those with persistent symptoms, and to meet national diagnostic targets for NHS England.”

Other symptoms of oesophago-gastric cancers may include:

  • Heartburn on and off for 3 weeks or more
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weight loss
  •  Trapped wind and frequent burping
  • Feeling full very quickly when eating
  • Feeling bloated after eating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain or discomfort in your upper stomach

Peptest is available to buy online and is used by a number of UK medical professionals with their patients.