Gokulakrishnan Balasubramanian, MD
Barrett’s esophagus is a precancerous condition in which the tissue lining the esophagus is replaced with tissue similar to the intestinal lining.
Barrett’s esophagus is estimated to affect about 4 percent of the population, primarily Caucasian men, with 55 being the average age of diagnosis.
The exact cause of Barrett’s is unknown and determining when the problem started is usually difficult. However gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a risk factor, as chronic GERD may damage the cells in the esophagus. Between 5-10 percent of people with GERD develop Barrett’s esophagus.
Other risk factors:
People with Barrett’s esophagus are at increased risk for esophageal cancer.
While many patients with Barrett’s esophagus will experience no symptoms at all, the most common symptoms are severe heartburn/GERD and difficulty swallowing food.
Barrett’s esophagus is diagnosed when a person has an upper GI endoscopy for GERD symptoms. Some health care providers may also recommend that people with multiple risk factors for this condition be tested. If precancerous cells appear in the Barrett’s tissue (dysplasia), your doctor may recommend periodic monitoring via an upper GI endoscopy with biopsy to watch for any changes. Barrett’s esophagus may be present for many years before cancer develops.
Your doctor will discuss treatment options based on your overall health, and whether precancerous cells are present.
Treatment options include: