Five Things You Need to Know about Barrett’s Esophagus

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 2, 2016

A male patient in a doctor's office describes his symptoms.

A complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Barrett’s esophagus can be a precursor for esophageal cancer.

Barrett’s esophagus is a complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and can sometimes be a precursor for esophageal cancer. The condition occurs when the tissue lining the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach) begins to resemble tissue that lines the intestines as a result of chronic regurgitation of stomach acid into the esophagus.

The condition is surprisingly common. Approximately one in six Americans has reflux symptoms weekly, and about 10 percent of these Americans have Barrett’s esophagus.

“Barrett’s esophagus is considered a pre-cancer, but with careful monitoring and treatment, specialists can help prevent it from turning into cancer,” says Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

Here are five things you should know about Barrett’s esophagus:

What are the symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus?

Because Barrett’s esophagus is often a complication of GERD, many people show symptoms of GERD. These include chronic heartburn, nausea, pain in the chest or upper abdomen, vomiting, problems swallowing, or respiratory problems.

How does Barrett’s esophagus relate to esophageal cancer?

Having Barrett’s esophagus slightly increases your risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma, a cancer of the esophagus. If diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, it is important to have regular exams to detect precancerous cells. If the cells are caught early, they can be treated before they spread.

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GERD: New Diagnosis and Treatment Approaches

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 5, 2016

GERD symptoms may include reflux, difficulty swallowing, coughing, and chest pain.

GERD symptoms may include reflux, difficulty swallowing, coughing, and chest pain.

About 30 to 40 million people in the United States annually complain of frequent heartburn and indigestion, a chronic condition that we describe as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is characterized by regular reflux – the regurgitation of acid and other stomach content into the esophagus. Other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, coughing, and chest pain.

Although less common, there are several other types of esophageal disorders, and their symptoms sometimes mimic those of GERD. These conditions may be caused by a lower esophageal sphincter (the muscular ring between the esophagus and the stomach) that fails to relax, a weak esophagus wall, poorly coordinated contractions of the esophagus, a narrowing of the esophagus, or tumors.

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