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Barrett’s esophagus: Questions and Answers

Q:  What is Barrett’s esophagus?

A: Barrett’s esophagus is a pre-cancerous condition within the lining of the esophagus, the food tube which leads to the stomach.

Q: How is Barrett’s esophagus caused?

A: Barrett’s esophagus is caused when the cells in the esophagus are damaged due to long-term exposure to GERD or acids reflux.   GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) occurs when fluid and foods splash up into the esophagus.  This occurs because the esophageal sphincter is weakened and allows acids and fluids from the stomach to escape into the esophagus.  The stomach acid damages the cells in the esophagus which can become abnormal overtime.

Q: How is Barrett’s esophagus diagnosed?

A: Barrett’s esophagus is diagnosed when a physician performs an upper endoscopy.  An endoscopy is when the physician places a think flexible tube down the mouth into the esophagus.

The physician examines the esophagus and takes samples of cells which appear to be Barrett’s.  The patient does not feel any discomfort from the cells which are taken during the endoscopy.

These cells are sent out to a pathologist which analyzes the cell tissue to see if it is in fact Barrett’s esophagus.  The pathologist can also test the cells to see if they are a developed stage of esophageal cancer.

Upper gastrointestinal system

Q: I have been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, will I get esophageal cancer?

A: Barrett’s esophagus is a risk factor for esophageal cancer and patients should first and foremost consult with their doctor to receive proper treatment and advice.

Patients with Barrett’s esophagus should, receive periodic exams to find any pre-cancerous cells. If these cells are found, they should be treated immediately in order to prevent esophageal cancer.

Those with Barrett’s esophagus should also take immediate steps to reduce acid reflux to further aggravate the esophagus.

For more information on Barrett’s esophagus, visit:

MayoClinic.com

Barrx.com

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