Barrett's Esophagus is a condition in which the cells that normally line the esophagus change into cells not usually found there, a process called dysplasia. The majority of patients with this disease have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic reflux disease where stomach contents flow back up into the esophagus. This damages the lining of the esophagus, allowing the abnormal cells to take over. Although patients with GERD are at a higher risk for developing Barrett's Esophagus, only a small percentage will actually develop this disease.
While Barrett's Esophagus itself does not cause any symptoms, patients with this disease often have long-standing symptoms of GERD, such as heartburn, regurgitation, and trouble swallowing.
The biggest concern for patients with Barrett's Esophagus is increased risk for a rare type of cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma. Although this risk is small, patients often opt for regular endoscopies and biopsies to watch for signs of cancer development. These procedures are done at different intervals, depending on the level of dysplasia the patient presents.
There are medications and surgeries available to treat GERD and reduce stomach acid. While these methods do not treat underlying Barrett's esophagus, they may help slow damage to the esophagus and can make it easier to detect dysplasia. For patients with high-grade dysplasia, doctors may recommend treatments to remove or destroy the abnormal cells.
If you have Barrett's esophagus, talk with your doctor about medication or lifestyle changes you can make to decrease your risk of complications. If you feel a clinical trial is right for you, we can work with you and your doctor to find a trial that is right for you.