It is estimated that Barrett’s esophagus affects about 700,000 adults in the United States. While Barrett’s esophagus may cause no symptoms itself, it is a serious condition that is associated with an increased risk of cancer. Accordingly, the American College of Gastroenterology recommends that patients with symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux undergo an endoscopy to detect the possible existence of Barrett’s esophagus.
Treatment Options and Follow-up for Barrett’s Esophagus
- Medical Treatment for Reflux – Patients with reflux are often treated with one of a family of prescription medications called proton pump inhibitors, designed to reduce gastric acid.
- Surgical Treatment for Reflux – Patients afflicted with severe reflux disease may be referred for anti-reflux surgery, e.g., laparoscopic fundoplication.
- Follow-up Endoscopy for Barrett’s Esophagus – The American College of Gastroenterology believes that systematic biopsies of the involved esophagus is required to document Barrett’s esophagus and to detect dysplasia or cancer, if present. The grade of dysplasia, determined by the surgical pathologist, dictates the follow-up interval, as indicated below:
Status of Dysplasia
|None1||Two to three years|
|Low-grade||Six months to one year|
|High-grade (focal)||Immediate and every three months, with biopsy|
|High-grade (extensive)||Immediate with biopsy, plus intervention2|
1 After two negative annual examinations
2 Intervention options include surgery, laser ablation, photodynamic therapy, endoscopic mucosal resection, etc.
Measures You Can Take to Reduce the Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux:
- Avoid large meals within three hours of bedtime
- Avoid the consumption of caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol
- Elevate the head of your bed
- Use throat lozenges or chewing gum to stimulate salivation
- Maintain a high-fiber diet that is low in fat and calories; consult your physician for proper diet and nutrition information
Important Questions to Ask Your Doctor:
- Do I have Barrett’s esophagus?
- What is my risk of getting cancer?
- What can I do to take care of myself during and after treatment?
- Will I require any additional monitoring if I take my medication?
Sources of Additional Information
American College of Gastroenterology
American Gastroenterological Association
Pharmaceutical Information Network
This patient diagnostic fact sheet is provided to you as a service by AmeriPath. It is intended for patient education and information only. It does not constitute advice, nor should it be taken to suggest or replace professional medical care from your physician. Your treatment options may vary, depending upon your medical history and current condition. Only your physician and you can determine your best options.