‘I thought having cancer would feel a lot worse’

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“I NEVER expected my symptoms to be cancer, I thought I would be feeling a lot worse,” said Ian MacKenzie.

The 71-year-old from Hartest is part of an NHS campaign to raise awareness of cancer of the gullet and stomach.

The two cancers affect nearly 700 people a year in Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambs and Bedfordshire (the four counties make up the Anglia Cancer Network).

Cancer of the gullet is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in men and the sixth in women – together with stomach cancer it leads to more than 500 deaths a year in Anglia.

But the good news is that early treatment can lead to a full recovery.

Ian went to his GP after he had difficulty swallowing for six months. He was diagnosed with cancer of the gullet in 2008.

“When my symptoms first began, it was very intermittent so I didn’t think anything was seriously wrong. I was relying on over the counter medication but when it was becoming harder and harder to swallow my food, I knew I needed to get it checked out.

“Like most people, I hadn’t heard of this type of cancer before. Myadvice to anyone, is go and see your doctor as soon as you suspect anything is wrong.

“I never expected my symptoms to be cancer, as I thought that I would be feeling a lot worse than I was. Other than the difficulty swallowing, I hadn’t noticed any other symptoms at all.”

He underwent chemotherapy at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds followed by surgery at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and was told no further treatment was required.

“As soon as my chemotherapy treatment began, I noticed an immediate improvement in my ability to swallow.

“I was more concerned about whether I would lose my hair!

“Afterwards, my recovery was fairly simple and within a year of surgery, I was able to eat normally which was amazing.”

He is indebted to the hospitals. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

The NHS Be Clear on Cancer campaign advises people to go to their doctors if they feel like food is sticking to their throat when they swallow or if they have had heartburn or indigestion on and off for three weeks or more.

Visit www.nhs.uk/ogcancer