Barrett's Esophagus Q & A
What is Barrett's esophagus?
Barrett's esophagus is a condition where the lining of your esophagus, the pipelike organ leading to your stomach, changes to become more like the lining of your small intestine. Barrett's esophagus occurs where your stomach and esophagus join. Rather than normal, smooth pink cells, the lining here becomes salmon-colored with Barrett's esophagus.
Barrett's esophagus is twice as common in men than women. Doctors believe the primary reason the condition develops is due to ongoing inflammation from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you've had GERD for a long period of time or developed it at a young age, you're more prone to develop Barrett's esophagus.
Does Barrett's esophagus cause cancer?
Although some people who have Barrett's esophagus develop cancer, more than 90% don't. The team at Capitol Gastro advises you if you have warning signs of esophageal cancer known as dysplasia, which is a precancerous change in your esophageal tissue.
When should I see a doctor about Barrett's esophagus?
If you've had the symptoms of GERD for more than 10 years, and you're a man over age 50, it's a good idea to make an appointment with Capitol Gastro to determine whether you also have Barrett's esophagus.
You should also see a doctor if you have the following symptoms:
- Trouble swallowing
- Losing weight without dieting
- Blood in your stool
- New chest pain
Your doctor discusses your symptoms with you and performs an endoscopic examination, if need be.
How is Barrett's esophagus diagnosed?
Your doctor typically diagnoses Barrett's esophagus by performing an endoscopy, a procedure where a thin tube with a light and camera is passed down your throat and into your stomach to collect images. During an endoscopy, your doctor also may perform a biopsy to take tissue samples to evaluate.
Capsule endoscopy is another test to examine your esophagus. With this test, you swallow a pill-sized capsule that contains a camera. The camera transmits images of your esophagus and digestive tract.
How is Barrett's esophagus treated?
Your treatment is generally tailored to the results of a biopsy, if you had one. For example, if the biopsy reveals low-grade dysplasia, that means your cells show some of the early signs of cancer. If this is the case, your doctor may wish to monitor you over time, or recommend a treatment called radiofrequency ablation, which uses heat to destroy the precancerous cells.
If you've been suffering from the symptoms of GERD and are worried you have Barrett's esophagus, call Capitol Gastro today for expert diagnosis and treatment.