If you have Barrett’s esophagus (BE), an upper endoscopy procedure is an important tool for monitoring this condition, minimizing your risk of developing esophageal cancer.
If you suffer from chronic heartburn or acid reflux, you face a higher risk of developing BE. GI doctors use an upper endoscopy (also called an EGD) to gather biopsies to diagnose this condition. An EGD is also an important tool for monitoring the progression of Barrett’s and the detection of changes in the esophageal lining or precancerous conditions.
Understanding Barrett’s Esophagus & Dysplasia
Barrett’s esophagus is the term used to describe the presence of changes in the esophageal lining wherein the cells take on characteristics of the lining of the small intestine. Although BE is not technically considered to be precancerous, it is the precursor to cell dysplasia (cells that appear abnormal, but are not currently cancerous), which may lead to esophageal cancer.
These changes occur when the esophagus is constantly exposed to stomach acid, typically due to gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD. Left untreated, acid reflux can lead to esophageal inflammation and, ultimately BE.
Who Is at Risk for Barrett’s Esophagus?
Although occasional heartburn is not unusual, experiencing chronic reflux (more than two times per week) can potentially increase your risk for BE. If you have been diagnosed with GERD, you are at risk for developing BE, especially if your reflux is not under control.
This condition is more common in men than women, and more common in Caucasians as it is in African Americans, but anyone can develop this condition.
Other common risk factors include smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and the regular use of prescription or over-the-counter medications to control heartburn.
When Should You Have an Upper Endoscopy?
Although the chances of developing esophageal cancer are small, even in patients diagnosed with BE, this type of cancer has a high mortality rate. The American Cancer Society reports that, while more than 17,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, more than 16,000 Americans die each year due to cancer of the esophagus. Consequently, early detection is critical.
If you suffer from chronic heartburn, consult your Granite Peaks GI specialist to determine the appropriate course of action. Report any changes in symptoms, such as regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or worsening of asthma symptoms.
Granite Peaks Gastroenterology, with convenient locations in Lehi and Sandy, Utah, specializes in the treatment of conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract, with an emphasis on helping our patients achieve overall health and wellness. Contact us today to learn more about Barrett’s esophagus. Your doctor will determine if an endoscopy procedure is indicated to diagnose, monitor and treat your upper gastrointestinal symptoms.