Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that develops when continuous exposure to stomach acid causes the cells in the lower esophagus to sustain damage. Over time, changes in the color and composition of esophageal cells may lead to esophageal cancer. It’s crucial that a gastroenterologist diagnose the type of Barrett’s esophagus from which you are suffering in order to determine the best possible option for treatment. Typically, doctors diagnose three types of Barrett’s esophagus.
Three Categories of Barrett’s Esophagus
Doctors diagnose the stages of Barrett’s esophagus by performing an upper endoscopy and taking biopsies of the affected tissue. Different treatments are required for the various stages of Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus can be categorized into the following three types:
- Intestinal Metaplasia – This condition occurs when repeated injury causes transformation of the healthy pink esophageal lining into intestinal lining. In this stage of development, dysplasia (a condition in which precancerous cells start to grow) is not yet detected.
- Low-Grade Dysplasia – Over time, the intestinal metaplasia lining can become distorted. The esophageal cells in a person with low-grade dysplasia are larger and display an abnormal pattern.
- High-Grade Dysplasia – The esophageal cells in patients with this type of Barrett’s esophagus are larger, multilayered and disorganized. This is the most serious form of Barrett’s disease and can lead to esophageal cancer.
Treatments for Barrett’s Esophagus
Typically, doctors advise patients with intestinal metaplasia to undergo follow-up surveillance to monitor their condition for signs of dysplasia. Patients with low-grade dysplasia require more frequently surveillance, and treatment options include medical management with anti-reflux medications therapy and intervention such as RFA. For those individuals with high-grade dysplasia, surgery is often the recommended treatment course versus RFA.
Learn more about endoscopic radiofrequency ablation as a method for treating Barrett’s esophagus.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How is Barrett’s diagnosed?
A: The doctors at the Barrett’s Esophagus Center of Excellence perform upper endoscopies to detect the presence of Barrett’s esophagus.
Q: If I have Barrett’s, will I definitely get esophageal cancer?
A: No! Not every person with Barrett’s esophagus goes on to develop esophageal cancer. Furthermore, the surgeons at the Barrett’s Esophagus Center can perform endoscopic radiofrequency ablation therapy using the new HALO system as a means of removing pre-cancerous esophageal lining.
Q: If I have dysplasia, do I have cancer, too?
A: Dysplastic cells demonstrate some of the characteristics of cancer, however they cannot spread past the wall of the esophagus. Doctors can treat dysplasia to reduce your risk of developing esophageal cancer in the future.
Q: What percent of people with low-grade dysplasia go on to develop cancer?
A: Approximately 20 percent of people with low-grade dysplasia will develop esophageal cancer without treatment.
Q: What percent of people with high-grade dysplasia go on to develop cancer?
A: Without treatment, 30-60 percent of people with high-grade dysplasia develop esophageal cancer.
Contact the Barrett’s Esophagus Center of Excellence
Talking about Barrett’s esophagus might seem frightening but, considering the alternative (possible development of esophageal cancer), it is an important conversation to have. Luckily, new medical advances allow the doctors at the Barrett’s Esophagus Center of Excellence to treat this condition more effectively. Endoscopic radiofrequency ablation and other treatments can drastically reduce Barrett’s sufferers’ chances of developing esophageal cancer.
If you are interested in learning more about Barrett’s esophagus, schedule an appointment today by calling (888) 548-7614.