Repetitive damage to the esophagus lining from longstanding gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may lead to a complication known as Barrett’s esophagus. This condition can result in the development of abnormal cells (dysplasia) in the lower esophagus. These abnormal cells are potentially precancerous and if not identified and treated, dysplastic Barrett’s esophagus can develop into cancer in a small number (about 0.5%) of patients each year.

Patients suffering from GERD for longer than 5 years as well as Caucasian males over age 50 are at high risk for Barrett’s esophagus. Obesity may also play a role in the development of cancer associated with this condition.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Barrett's Esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus is a silent disease, often progressing slowly with no symptoms until cancer develops. Chronic heartburn remains the strongest risk factor for developing the disease.

Your gastroenterologist will ask about your medical history, especially in regards to GERD, and conduct a physical exam. An endoscopic procedure is usually recommended to obtain a biopsy of the tissue in your lower esophagus to accurately diagnose and confirm your condition.

Treatment of Barrett's Esophagus

Most patients with Barrett’s esophagus will undergo endoscopy examinations on a regular basis to help monitor any progression of the disease.

If you have dysplasia (precancerous changes) your physician may recommend ablation of the abnormal tissue using radiofrequency (RF) therapy. At NorthShore, we offer this advanced therapeutic endoscopic procedure to destroy the precancerous cells from the esophagus lining, which allows healthy cells to take their place.

For More Information

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist, please call 847.657.1900.

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