IT'S A “quiet epidemic” that needs to be stopped.

That was the message from Southampton surgeon Tim Underwood as he revealed his mission to tackle oesophageal cancer to one Hampshire MP.

Steve Brine, MP for Winchester and Chandler's Ford, took a tour of the Cancer Research UK centre at Southampton General Hospital to see the work underway to slash death rates and how Mr Underwood and his team are taking on their own cancer marathon to raise vital cash.

As previously reported, cases of the disease have increased by ten per cent in Southampton over the last 25 years - 14 per cent in men and two per cent in women.

The worrying trend has sparked Mr Underwood and his team into action, taking on the New York marathon to raise funds for groundbreaking research that could lead to new tests, treatments and better survival rates.

There are two forms of the disease, which affects the food pipe, squamous cell carcinoma linked to smoking, drinking and a low fruit intake and adenocarcinoma linked to obesity, smoking and persistent acid reflux, which is commonly referred to as heartburn.

If left untreated, acid reflux can damage cells of the oesophagus leading to a condition called Barrett's oesophagus which, in turn, can be a precursor of oesophageal cancer.

In Southampton, although almost 300 patients were referred for review and treatment in 2012, which is up from 160 in 2001, only 70 were suitable for surgery with intent to cure their cancer.

Mr Underwood said: “In addition to being one of the most difficult cancers to detect and treat - only around one in ten patients survive for ten years or more - cases are on the rise, so we need action and we need it quickly.

“We are seeing a quiet epidemic of oesophageal cancer in the UK right now and outcomes are poor, which means our immediate focus must be on prevention through lifestyle choices and early diagnosis.

“Food getting stuck when you swallow and persistent heartburn are not normal so, if this is happening to you, you need to see your GP.”

After his visit Mr Brine said: “This was both an inspiring visit and a deeply worrying one.

“The expertise Cancer Research UK have centred here is world-class and it was impressive to see such cutting edge research taking place.

“Giving the growing incidence we have with the disease attention clearly needs, in the short term at least, to be paid to lifestyle choices, backed by awareness of the symptoms.”

To find out more about the cancer marathon and to donate, visit