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Barrett's Esophagus


Barrett’s esophagus is a condition thought to result from long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. When GERD is not controlled, stomach contents regularly escape from the stomach into the esophagus and can damage the lining of the esophagus. In people with Barrett’s esophagus, the tissue lining the esophagus has become more like the tissue that lines the intestine, and this changed tissue can become cancerous. Only about 10% of people with GERD develop Barrett’s esophagus, and a small number of them eventually progress to esophageal cancer.

Risk Factors 

  • Having long-term GERD
  • Being a white male
  • Getting GERD at a young age
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Having a hiatal hernia.

It is important that people with Barrett’s esophagus see their doctor regularly so that if cancer develops, it can be discovered and treated early.

Symptoms

Barrett’s esophagus does not cause any specific symptoms. But because people with this condition often have GERD, they likely have frequent heartburn and other symptoms of GERD.

Diagnosis

If you are at high risk for developing Barrett’s esophagus, the medical team at Norton Thoracic Institute will screen you using a technique called gastrointestinal endoscopy. During this outpatient procedure, a flexible tube with a small light and camera at the tip will be maneuvered through your mouth into your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine to look for signs of Barrett's. Samples of tissue (biopsies) may be taken and examined in a lab.

Treatment

Treatment for Barrett’s esophagus may include the following:

  • Regular endoscopies to watch for signs of cancer
  • Endoscopic ablation to destroy precancerous cells in the esophagus
  • Surgery to treat GERD, an underlying cause of Barrett’s esophagus.

Prevention

You can reduce your risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus by following these guidelines:

  • Lose weight.
  • See your doctor regularly so that he or she can monitor your condition for signs of cancer.
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Eat a healthy, low-fat diet with lots of fruits and vegetables; avoid foods and beverages that cause acid reflux.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals, and don't eat within three hours of bedtime.

Learn About Barrett's Esophagus Services at Norton Thoracic Institute

To learn more about our services, call 602.406.4000.