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Barrett's Esophagus

A change in the cells of the tissue that lines the bottom of the esophagus. The esophagus may become irritated when the contents of the stomach back up (reflux). Reflux that happens often over a period of time can lead to Barrett's esophagus.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Barrett's Esophagus

What is Barrett's Esophagus?

Barrett's esophagus is a condition in which tissue that is similar to the lining of your intestine replaces the tissue lining your esophagus. Doctors call this process intestinal metaplasia.

Are people with Barrett's esophagus more likely to develop cancer?

People with Barrett's esophagus are more likely to develop a rare type of cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma.

The risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma in people with Barrett's esophagus is about 0.5 percent per year. Typically, before this cancer develops, precancerous cells appear in the Barrett's tissue. Doctors call this condition dysplasia and classify the dysplasia as low grade or high grade.

You may have Barrett's esophagus for many years before cancer develops....Read more about Barrett Esophagus NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Surgery versus endoscopic therapies for early oesophageal cancer in Barrett's oesophagus

This Cochrane review has indicated that there are no randomised controlled trials to compare management options in this vital area, therefore trials should be undertaken as a matter of urgency. Current use of endotherapies in the care of patients with early cancer or high‐grade dysplasia of Barrett's oesophagus should be at the recommendation of the multi‐disciplinary team involved in individual care. Properly conducted randomised controlled trials comparing surgery with endotherapies should be conducted before any conclusions can be drawn.

Treatment of Barrett's oesophagus

One of the two main types of oesophageal (gullet) cancer, oesophageal adenocarcinoma, is rapidly increasing in incidence in the western world. The prognosis for patients treated for oesophageal adenocarcinoma is appalling with fewer than 15% of individuals surviving beyond five years. Barrett’s oesophagus has been identified as the pre‐cancerous stage of adenocarcinoma. It is recognised that Barrett's oesophagus develops as a complication of acid and bile reflux which commonly, but not inevitably, leads to heartburn symptoms. In response to these injurious agents, the normal squamous lining of the oesophagus is replaced by a columnar lining resembling the lining of the intestine. This intestinal subtype has the highest risk of malignancy and the term Barrett's oesophagus is used only for this subtype in many areas of the world, and in most research publications. Barrett's oesophagus can gradually progress to adenocarcinoma through a series of stages called dysplasia which can be identified in biopsies examined under the microscope.

Photodynamic therapy for Barrett's esophagus: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: He JD, Wang YP, Ouyang XB.  Photodynamic therapy for Barrett's esophagus: a systematic review. World Chinese Journal of Digestology 2010; 18(17): 1815-1819 Available from: http://d.wanfangdata.com.cn/periodical_hrxhzz201017013.aspx

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Summaries for consumers

Surgery versus endoscopic therapies for early oesophageal cancer in Barrett's oesophagus

This Cochrane review has indicated that there are no randomised controlled trials to compare management options in this vital area, therefore trials should be undertaken as a matter of urgency. Current use of endotherapies in the care of patients with early cancer or high‐grade dysplasia of Barrett's oesophagus should be at the recommendation of the multi‐disciplinary team involved in individual care. Properly conducted randomised controlled trials comparing surgery with endotherapies should be conducted before any conclusions can be drawn.

Treatment of Barrett's oesophagus

One of the two main types of oesophageal (gullet) cancer, oesophageal adenocarcinoma, is rapidly increasing in incidence in the western world. The prognosis for patients treated for oesophageal adenocarcinoma is appalling with fewer than 15% of individuals surviving beyond five years. Barrett’s oesophagus has been identified as the pre‐cancerous stage of adenocarcinoma. It is recognised that Barrett's oesophagus develops as a complication of acid and bile reflux which commonly, but not inevitably, leads to heartburn symptoms. In response to these injurious agents, the normal squamous lining of the oesophagus is replaced by a columnar lining resembling the lining of the intestine. This intestinal subtype has the highest risk of malignancy and the term Barrett's oesophagus is used only for this subtype in many areas of the world, and in most research publications. Barrett's oesophagus can gradually progress to adenocarcinoma through a series of stages called dysplasia which can be identified in biopsies examined under the microscope.

Heartburn and GERD: Overview

Many people will be familiar with the burning pain that spreads from their upper stomach into their throat, accompanied by a bitter taste in their mouths. In gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), these symptoms are frequent and severe. They may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as problems swallowing, a burning throat and a cough.

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Terms to know

Adenocarcinoma
Cancer that begins in glandular (secretory) cells. Glandular cells are found in tissue that lines certain internal organs and makes and releases substances in the body, such as mucus, digestive juices, or other fluids. Most cancers of the breast, pancreas, lung, prostate, and colon are adenocarcinomas.
Dysplasia
Cells that look abnormal under a microscope but are not cancer.
Epithelium
A thin layer of tissue that covers organs, glands, and other structures within the body.
Esophageal Cancer
Cancer that forms in tissues lining the esophagus (the muscular tube through which food passes from the throat to the stomach). Two types of esophageal cancer are squamous cell carcinoma (cancer that begins in flat cells lining the esophagus) and adenocarcinoma (cancer that begins in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids).
Esophageal Reflux (Gastroesophageal Reflux)
The backward flow of stomach acid contents into the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach).
Esophagus
The muscular tube through which food passes from the throat to the stomach.
Gastric
Having to do with the stomach.
Pyrosis (Heartburn)
A painful, burning feeling in the chest caused by stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus.

More about Barrett's Esophagus

Photo of an adult man

Also called: Barrett oesophagus, Barrett's oesophagus, Columnar epithelial-lined lower oesophagus, Columnar-lined oesophagus, Gastric metaplasia of oesophagus, Barrett esophagus, Barrett's syndrome, Columnar epithelial-lined lower esophagus, Columnar-lined esophagus, Gastric metaplasia of esophagus, CELLO, CLE

See Also: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Other terms to know: See all 8
Adenocarcinoma, Dysplasia, Epithelium

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