If you've had heartburn most days for 3 weeks or more, tell your doctor.

Dr Jane Scott

If you've had heartburn most days for three weeks or more, tell your doctor. Chances are it's nothing serious, but you're not wasting anyone's time by getting it checked out. Call your GP today.

What could it be?

Some symptoms may be caused by other conditions, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), which may still need treatment. But don't try to diagnose yourself. Go and see your doctor now to find out for sure.

Could it be cancer?

Having heartburn most days for three weeks or more can be a sign of oesphago-gastric cancer, which is why it's so important to see your doctor straight away. Early detection makes it easier to treat. Seeing your doctor could save your life.

Going to the doctor straight away was the best thing I ever did.

Alan Bainbridge, aged 71

Are there other symptoms of oespohago-gastric cancer?

Having heartburn most days for three weeks or more is a common sign of oesophageal cancer or stomach cancer. 

Other symptoms include:

  • indigestion on and off for three weeks or more
  • food feels like it's sticking in your throat when you swallow
  • losing weight for no obvious reason
  • trapped wind and frequent burping
  • feeling full very quickly when eating
  • feeling bloated after eating
  • nausea or vomiting
  • pain or discomfort in your upper tummy area

If you have any of these symptoms, see your GP as soon as possible. If you know anyone who has any of these symptoms, insist they see their doctor.

Find your local GP

What will happen at my GP appointment?

You're not wasting anyone's time by getting your symptoms checked out, and your mind will be put at rest if it's not serious. 

At your appointment, your GP will take a detailed look at your medical history and carry out a physical examination.

You may also be referred to a hospital to see a specialist if further examinations and tests are needed.


Hear from our GPs

Find out what to expect when you see your doctor – watch the video.

About oesophago-gastric cancer

The oesophagus (more commonly known as the gullet or food pipe) is the long tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach.

Cancer of the oesophagus is also called oesophageal cancer. Sometimes, oesophageal and stomach cancers are known as oesophago-gastric cancers.

There are around 12,600 new cases of these two cancers in England every year. Both cancers affect men and women, but are more common in men. More than 9 out of 10 people who get cancer of the oesophagus or stomach are over 50.

Reduce your risk

A healthy lifestyle can help you reduce your risk of oesophago-gastric cancers. Some ways to stay healthy are:

  • stop smoking – if you smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is to quit. There's plenty of support available from the NHS. Visit nhs.uk/smokefree or call 0300 123 1044.
  • look after yourself – try to maintain a healthy weight and keep active. Swimming, cycling, dancing, walking – the more you can do, the better. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet too, with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • cut down on alcohol – drinking too much alcohol can lead to a number of health problems. By drinking less, you'll reduce your health risks.

For more information on how to reduce your risk of cancer, visit nhs.uk/reduce-your-risk.

Content last reviewed: June 2016