Up to 6.8% of Americans have Barrett’s esophagus today. Barrett’s esophagus could lead to cancer, but you’re in excellent hands with regular monitoring and treatment at GI Associates of Maryland. The practice maintains its main office in Waldorf, Maryland, and an endoscopy center in the next suite for procedures. Schedule your appointment online or call the office to book your visit with the caring experts now.
Barrett’s esophagus occurs when the lining of the food tube (esophagus) changes color and texture. Typically flat, smooth, and pale pink, the esophageal lining transforms, becoming bumpy and red. In this state, it more closely resembles the lining of your small intestine.
Barrett’s esophagus is a precancerous condition, which means there’s a chance it could progress to esophageal cancer if not monitored and treated.
Current research suggests that the cause of Barrett’s esophagus is long-term inflammation triggered by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). About 10-15% of people with GERD experience Barrett’s esophagus.
When stomach acid moves into your esophagus, the tissue becomes greatly inflamed. The cells there may adapt as a protective measure as it tries to heal. These cell changes (dysplasia) increase the risk of esophageal cancer.
Most people with Barrett’s esophagus don’t have any symptoms related to the disease. But it’s common to have problems like GERD. These include:
Barrett’s esophagus is most common in men aged 50s and 60s with heartburn for years.
An endoscopy diagnoses Barrett’s esophagus. During this process, the GI Associates of Maryland team uses a long, thin tube equipped with a tiny camera to view your esophagus from the inside.
Along with the visual identification of Barrett's tissue, the team takes a tiny tissue sample and tests it (biopsy) to identify dysplasia. There are changes with low-grade dysplasia, but high-grade dysplasia indicates more serious changes and a higher risk of esophageal cancer.
You need regular monitoring if you have low-grade dysplasia upon diagnosis. The team also recommends lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating small, frequent meals, and avoiding heartburn triggers.
You need treatment to kill the unhealthy cells if you have high-grade dysplasia, which may include minimally invasive procedures using heat, cold, or light or direct endoscopic removal of the dysplasia. You may need to take medication after your procedure to reduce stomach acid.
You could need surgery to destroy and rebuild your esophagus in severe cases. But, early response can preserve your health and prevent cancer.
Call GI Associates of Maryland or book your appointment online today.