Barrett’s esophagus is a health condition that develops when acid reflux damages the esophagus, which is the pink tube connecting the stomach to the mouth. This damage causes the lining of the esophagus to grow thicker and redden in color.
Barrett’s esophagus often develops because of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, which involves symptoms like heartburn and regurgitation of food. Barrett’s esophagus is the result of GERD symptoms leading to changes in the cells that line the lower portion of the esophagus.
Men and people with certain risk factors are more likely to develop Barrett’s esophagus. Those who have GERD or who believe they may be at risk of this condition should consult with a doctor, as Barrett’s esophagus can lead to esophageal cancer in rare cases.
“I find that I suffer from heartburn most days, and sometimes I even feel as if I am regurgitating my food.”
“I sometimes have trouble swallowing food.”
“After living with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) for several years, I started to suffer from bouts of chest pain.”
Top Three Questions about Barrett’s Esophagus:
- Q: Does Barrett’s esophagus mean I will develop cancer?
A: Barrett’s esophagus does increase a person’s risk of cancer, but this does not mean that you will develop cancer with this condition. In fact, the risk of cancer is quite low, and most people with Barrett’s esophagus never develop cancer of the esophagus. That being said, it is still important to work with a doctor to monitor the condition, as precancerous cells can be treated to reduce your risk of developing esophageal cancer in the future.
- Q: Should I be screened for Barrett’s esophagus?
A: A Barrett’s esophagus screening is recommended for individuals with certain risk factors. For instance, men who have weekly GERD symptoms that do not improve with medications, or who have two or more risk factors, such as a family history of Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer, being over age 50, having excess abdominal fat, or being a current or former smoker, should be screened for the condition. While women are less likely to develop Barrett’s esophagus, they should be screened for it if they that uncontrolled GERD symptoms.
- Q: How is Barrett’s Esophagus treated?
A: Treatment will depend upon the severity of Barrett’s esophagus. If you have no precancerous changes to the cells of your esophagus, a doctor will monitor your condition and provide treatment to manage GERD symptoms. This may include medication, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, surgery to treat a hiatal hernia or to tighten the area of the stomach that manages the flow of stomach acid. If you have some development of precancerous cells, a professional may provide treatment to remove abnormal cells or tissue within the esophagus. If you have significant development of precancerous cells, this is considered a warning sign of esophageal cancer. In this case, a doctor may remove damaged cells or complete surgery to remove damaged portions of the esophagus.