How the charity started

In 2002 Michael McCord died from oesophageal cancer. His death, like so many, was preventable. Had he known at the time about the dangers of long term and persistent heartburn he could have sought medical help and the outcome might have been completely different. It was his tragic death that prompted his widow, Mimi, to launch The McCord Oesophageal Cancer Fund (MOCF) in 2003.  The mission was to raise public awareness of the dangers of persistent heartburn and to urge people to seek medical advice from your GP if your symptoms continue.  In 2010 the charity became Heartburn Cancer Awareness and Support (HCAS).  Since 2014 we have been known as Heartburn Cancer UK (HCUK).

Cancer of the oesophagus is growing rapidly in incidence across the UK and is currently the seventh biggest cancer killer.  Despite the best modern treatments, survival rates after diagnosis are appalling.  This is partly due to diagnosis often being made when the condition is too advanced to be treated; early symptoms are few and are often ignored.

Long term persistent heartburn is a significant symptom of oesophageal cancer and also the pre-cancerous condition known as Barrett's oesophagus.

Heartburn affects 1 in 10 of us and is often dismissed as a harmless problem, easily treated with off-the-shelf antacid remedies.  It is estimated that around 500,000 people in the UK have the pre-cancerous condition Barrett's oesophagus and most are totally unaware of it.  Around 10% (50,000) of these will go on to develop oesophageal cancer at some stage.

Some key dates for Heartburn Cancer UK

  • Mimi McCord founder of McCord Oesophageal Cancer Fund 2003-2010
  • Launch of the McCord Endoscopy Project, a pilot study at St Thomas' Hospital, London, 2006
  • The McCord Oesophageal Cancer Fund provided two ultra-thin endoscopes, forming an award won by Addenbrokes, Cambridge
  • Chair of Barrett's Support Network 2008-2010
  • Chair of Heartburn Cancer UK  2010-to date
  • Lay member of the 'Expert Panel' advising the Department of Health on the key messages to trial in a public awareness campaign 'Be Clear on Cancer' for oesophago-gastric cancer  2011-2015
  • London Awareness Campaign 2015
  • Opened first official office 2017
  • Started first quarterly newsletter 2017
  • North Hants awareness campaign August - December 2019
  • Re-launch of Heartburn Cancer UK information booklet 2019
  • New website launch June 2020

Research involvement

  • Patient advocate for Professor Sir Mike Stratton's CRUK Grand Challenge winning team 2017.  Mutographs of Cancer - How unusual patterns of mutation are induced by different cancer-causing events
  • Co-Author - Acetic Acid guided biopsies in Barrett's surveillance for neoplasia detection versus Seattle protocol; a randomised tandem endoscopy trial ABBA
  • Lay member for the advisory committee of BEST2 and 3 Study - Evaluation of non-endoscopic Immunocytological device, the Cytosponge

Lay representation at NICE guideline development groups

NICE guidelines are evidence-based recommendations for health and care in England.They set out the care and services suitable for most people with a specific condition or need and people in particular circumstances or settings. These guidelines help health and social care professionals to prevent ill health.

  • Oesophago-gastric cancer GD published in 2018
  • Dysplasia/GORD GDG - 2012/14 - published 2014
  • Upper gastrointestinal topic expert group (TEG) - 2012 published 2013
  • Management of acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding - 2010/12 - published 2012
  • Barrett's oesophagus GDG - Ablative therapy 2009/10 -published 2010

British Society of Gastroententerology

  • Lay representation guideline development group for oesophageal manometry and oesophageal reflux monitoring - 2018
  • Co-author stricture guideline - 2015/17
  • Lay representative - revision of oesophageal section 'diagnosis and management of Barrett's oesophagus' -2012