Barrett's esophagus is a condition in which the lining of the esophagus changes to intestinal-type lining. This is a result of chronic acid reflux. While Barrett's esophagus is a benign condition, it does increase a person's risk of developing cancer of the esophagus.
There are no specific symptoms of Barrett's esophagus, and only a small portion of people with chronic reflux symptoms will develop it (perhaps 15%). Therefore, screening is recommended for individuals with certain risk factors. Screening is performed with an upper endoscopy.
Last week, the American College of Gastroenterology published the latest guidelines on the diagnosis and management of Barrett's esophagus. This report reinforced screening in the following situations:
Men with chronic acid reflux (5 years duration and/or symptoms at least once a week)
2 or more of the following risk factors:
Age > 50 years
Waist size > 40 inches
Current or past history of smoking
Family history of Barrett's esophagus or esophageal cancer
If you meet these criteria, you should be screened for Barrett’s esophagus.
Women: routine screening is no longer recommended. This is a change from prior guidelines and reflects the very low risk of esophageal cancer in women. However, you may still need endoscopic evaluation if you have certain symptoms (severe reflux, trouble swallowing, weight loss, failure to improve with acid reducing medicines).
Click HERE for further information on Barrett’s esophagus.
-Christopher McGowan, MD, MSCR