Barrett’s esophagus begins when you have ongoing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Without treatment, Barrett’s esophagus increases your risk of developing cancer. The board-certified gastroenterologists at G.I. Medicine Associates, P.C. have extensive experience diagnosing and treating both conditions, giving you relief from uncomfortable symptoms like heartburn while protecting the health of your esophagus. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, call the office in St. Clair Shores or Macomb, Michigan.
Barrett’s esophagus occurs when stomach acid damages the cells lining your lower esophagus (the long tube running from your throat to your stomach). You develop this condition when gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) allows acids to move from your stomach into the esophagus.
The ongoing reflux of stomach acid irritates and damages the cells. As a result, the cells change, transforming from normal esophageal cells into abnormal cells similar to those lining your intestine.
Without treatment, the abnormal cells may develop into a rare type of cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma.
The cellular changes that define Barrett’s esophagus seldom cause symptoms. However, you will have symptoms caused by GERD, including:
If esophageal cancer develops, you may also have symptoms such as vomiting, blood in your stool, and unintended weight loss.
Your provider diagnoses Barrett’s esophagus with an upper endoscopy. During the procedure, they insert a thin, flexible tube (endoscope) through your mouth and guide it to the bottom of the esophagus.
The scope contains lighting and a video camera, providing magnified images that allow your provider to examine the tissues. They pass instruments through the scope to take tissue biopsies then lab technicians examine the tissues and identify any abnormal cellular changes.
Your provider treats your GERD with lifestyle changes and medications like antacids and proton pump inhibitors.
If you need more than medication to stop GERD, they perform anti-reflux surgery. During anti-reflux surgery, they reinforce the muscle responsible for holding acids inside your stomach.
Treatment for Barrett’s esophagus depends on the extent of the cell’s precancerous changes. If most cells are still normal, your provider may choose to monitor the condition, only treating it if the condition progresses.
If you have a high risk for cancer, your provider eliminates the damaged cells using radiofrequency ablation. They use an endoscope to deliver radiofrequency energy that destroys the cells. Then new, normal cells grow in to replace them.
You can prevent Barrett’s esophagus by getting early treatment for GERD. To get help for either condition, call G.I. Medicine Associates, P.C.