Ireland’s only fundraising and awareness campaign for oesophageal cancer, Lollipop Day, takes place this Friday and Saturday, February 26-27.
The Oesophageal Cancer Fund (OCF) amis to increase public awareness of the symptoms of oesophageal cancer and to highlight how the cancer can be prevented or diagnosed early to improve cure rates.
The OCF is calling on the public to buy a lollipop for €2 and to be aware of the symptoms which are sometimes mistaken for conditions like heartburn or acid reflux.
Ireland has one of the highest rates of oesophageal cancer in Europe, with almost 450 new cases diagnosed each year.
The National Cancer Registry Ireland predicts the figure will rise to at least 800 by 2040.
Greater awareness of the risk factors, including persistent acid reflux, obesity heavy alcohol use and smoking, is crucial.
Early detection is vital, as early oesophageal cancer can be cured in a high percentage of cases, often with innovative approaches that are less severe than surgery or chemotherapy.
Urging people with oesophageal cancer symptoms to consult their GP, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “Early detection in all cancers is vital and is still the best way to protect yourself, because it leads to better outcomes. The symptoms are easy to remember, and I urge anyone with concerns to contact their GP. I want to congratulate the Oesophageal Cancer Fund for its vital work in raising public awareness of this disease.”
In the 15 years since the OCF was founded, significant progress has been made in the awareness, diagnosis and treatment of oesophageal cancer in Ireland. Survival rates have improved significantly – in 2001, for patients treated with surgery with or without chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the cure rate was approximately 20%, today the cure rate is between 40 to 50 per cent.
Noelle Ryan, OCF Chairperson added: “Since the OCF began this campaign 15 years ago, we have seen an increased awareness among Irish people of oesophageal cancer. We are calling on people to support Lollipop Day, by purchasing a lollipop and urging those experiencing swallowing difficulties; those who suffer with chronic or persistent heartburn to attend their GP for advice.”
The OCF has donated over 2€800,000 to develop a comprehensive registry of patients at risk of oesophageal cancer in Ireland by virtue of having Barrett’s oesophagus, a condition which results from chronic severe acid reflux disease. With over 3,000 patients registered to date, this links six hospitals in Ireland to the national Barrett’s Registry. This initiative has brought together surgeons, gastroenterologists and scientists from each of the hospitals to work towards the common goal of targeting oesophageal cancer prevention and early diagnosis, with considerable potential to improve cure rates.
Commenting on early detection of the cancer Prof. John Reynolds, National Lead for oesophageal cancer, and Head of the Barrett’s Oesophagus Register project, said: “The earlier cancer is caught, the easier it is to cure, and prevention and early diagnosis are our best strategies for the future. At this centre, we have seen an approximate doubling of improvement in the cure rate in recent years compared with a decade ago, which is very promising. There is also an increasing percentage of patients presenting with earlier stage disease, many of whom can be treated without invasive surgery or chemotherapy. A greater awareness of risk factors, including Barrett’s oesophagus, as well as improved quality of all aspects of treatment through clinical trials, quality assurance, and published outcomes, are the key cornerstones over the next decade for improving survival rates from this very difficult disease.”
For more information on Lollipop Day 2016 and the Oesophageal Cancer Fund, go to www.lollipopday.ie, www.Facebook.ie/Lollipopday, Twitter: @LollipopDayIE