Coronavirus and cancer

We know it’s a worrying time for people with cancer, we have information to help. If you have symptoms of cancer contact your doctor.

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Referral to a specialist

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to oesophageal cancer. Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent referral.

Your GP might also refer you straight to the hospital for a test to look inside your oesophagus (endoscopy). 

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who may have cancer and who might have a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics or antacid medicine.

You should see your GP again within 4 weeks if you continue to have symptoms.

UK referral guidelines

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral.

Some of the UK nations have targets around how quickly you’ll be seen. In England an urgent referral means that you should see a specialist within 2 weeks.

This 2 week time limit is not part of the waiting time targets in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But wherever you live, you are seen as quickly as possible.

Ask your GP when you are likely to get an appointment

Urgent referral

The referral guidelines vary slightly between the different UK nations. The following information is a summary.

You should get an urgent appointment for an endoscopy test to look inside your food pipe if you have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).

You should also have an urgent referral if you’re 55 or older, have lost weight and have any of the following symptoms:

  • pain in your upper tummy (abdomen)
  • heartburn or acid indigestion (stomach acid coming back up into the food pipe)
  • indigestion (dyspepsia)

You might also have an urgent referral if you have new vomiting that lasts for more than 2 weeks. Or if you're 55 or over and have unexplained low iron levels in your blood (anaemia).

Immediate referral

Your GP should consider referring you for an endoscopy as soon as possible if you've been vomiting blood (haemetemesis).

Non urgent referral

The referral guidelines vary slightly between the different UK nations. The following information is a summary.

Your GP should consider referring you for a non urgent endoscopy if you are 55 or older and have

  • indigestion that hasn't improved with medicines
  • pain in your upper tummy (abdomen) and low levels of red blood cells (anaemia)

Your GP should also consider referring you if you’re 55 or older and have a raised platelet count or nausea and vomiting with any of these

  • weight loss
  • heartburn or acid indigestion (reflux)
  • indigestion
  • pain in your upper tummy (abdomen)

Your GP might refer you if you have indigestion that is getting worse and you have an increased risk of oesophageal cancer. For example, you have:

  • cell changes in the lining of your food pipe
  • a condition called Barrett’s oesophagus
  • a first degree relative (mum, dad, sister, brother, son or daughter) who has had oesophageal cancer

If you are still worried

You could make another appointment with your GP if you are concerned they are not taking your symptoms seriously. And you should see your GP again if you continue to have symptoms.

You could print this page and ask your GP to talk it through with you. Then you might be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist.

Information and help