Barrett’s esophagus is an abnormal change in the lining of the esophagus, which is the tube that connects the mouth and stomach. It only affects a small percentage of people, and it is usually found in patients with long-standing acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Barrett’s esophagus is also more common in Caucasians, men, people aged 50 and older, those with a family history of the condition, smokers and people who are obese.
Barrett’s esophagus is a precancerous condition that increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer, making early detection and the eradication of any precancerous cells important. Because it does not produce any symptoms, regular monitoring to check for Barrett’s esophagus is crucial if you have persistent acid reflux or GERD.
How is Barrett’s Esophagus Treated?
Treatment depends on your medical history and the stage of abnormal tissue change found, which ranges from no dysplasia (no precancerous cells) to high-grade dysplasia.
Barrett’s Esophagus Without Dysplasia
- No precancerous cells have been found.
- Treatment is not required at this early stage. Although, a one-year or two-year follow-up endoscopy will be recommended.
- Medication and/or lifestyle changes will be prescribed to manage acid reflux or GERD. For those not responding to treatment, minimally invasive surgery may be required.
Barrett’s Esophagus with Low-Grade Dysplasia
- Early precancerous stage with some abnormal cells found.
- Usually only requires more frequent checkups (every 6 to 12 months).
- Treatment may be recommended for some patients.
Barrett’s Esophagus with High-Grade Dysplasia
- Substantial abnormal tissue has been found, which means significantly increased risk of cancer.
- Treatment to remove the abnormal tissue is usually recommended, and may include:
- Radiofrequency ablation that uses radio waves to burn off the affected tissue.
- Endoscopic mucosal resection to remove abnormal tissue using an endoscope.
- Cryotherapy to freeze off affected tissue.
- Esophagectomy to remove all or part of the esophagus.
Barrett’s esophagus can recur, so regular checkups are essential. Some patients may also require medication.
Lifestyle changes can help reduce the incidence of acid reflux and GERD, and lessen the risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus.
- Don’t smoke.
- Attain and/or maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid foods and drinks that trigger heartburn.
- Don’t eat for three hours before lying down.
- Sleep on an incline to keep your head elevated.
While esophageal cancer from Barrett’s esophagus is rare, it is important to monitor the condition and treat it if necessary. If you have any worrisome gastrointestinal symptoms, contact the GastroIntestinal Specialists today.
The physicians at GastroIntestinal Specialists, A.M.C., treat multiple conditions and diseases of the GI tract. Our Board-Certified physicians have over 150 years of combined experience in providing quality care you can trust. To schedule an appointment, call (318) 631-9121 or click here.