Why You Should Be Checked for Barrett’s Esophagus
If you have suffered from severe or long-term GERD, your doctor may suggest that you are screened for Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus has no symptoms of its own, but it can significantly increase your risk of esophageal cancer. Getting screened can allow you and your doctor to get a better handle on your health and protect you from dangerous health problems in the future.
What Is Barrett’s Esophagus?
In people who have Barrett’s esophagus, the tissue in the esophagus becomes similar to the tissue that is normally found in the intestines. While the exact cause is not known, the condition is most common in people who have chronic GERD. It is suspected that, when trying to heal itself from the constant exposure to stomach acids, the tissue in the esophagus changes. Common risk factors include:
- chronic GERD that’s lasted five years of more
Barrett’s esophagus is more common in older patients than young ones, and more common in men than women. Rarely, Barrett’s esophagus will occur in people who have never suffered from GERD or had any detectable symptoms.
Improved Testing for Barrett’s Esophagus
The condition does not show up in blood tests or physical exams. The only way to test for it is through an endoscopy and biopsy. Traditionally, samples were taken and tested in a lab; several days would pass before results were available.
There is a new advance that makes the procedure easier and gives results right away. The Cellvizio optical biopsy allows a biopsy to be performed during the endoscopy. The procedure pairs a very small microscope with laser imaging technology. Using this combination, doctors can detect dysplacia and cancerous or precancerous tissue. In many cases, Cellvizio allows patients to avoid traditional biopsies altogether.
Protecting Your Health
If you have chronic GERD, periodic testing for Barrett’s esophagus and other complications is necessary to avoid complications. By checking in regularly, you can identify possible problems early, allowing you to take control of your care, stay healthier and enjoy a higher quality of life.