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What is Barrett's Esophagus?


Understanding Barrett's Esophagus

Barret's esophagus tissue
Barrett's esophagus is a pre-cancerous condition affecting the lining of the esophagus, the swallowing tube that carries foods and liquids from the mouth to the stomach.

  • In a study published in 2005, Barrett's esophagus prevalence was estimated to affect approximately 3.3 million adults over 50 years of age in the U.S.
  • Patients with Barrett's Esophagus are 30-125 times more likely to develop adenocarcinoma (esophageal cancer) than the general population
  • The incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma has risen approximately six-fold in the U.S. It is rising faster than breast cancer, prostate cancer, or melanoma
     

Development of Barrett's Esophagus

Development of Barrett's esophagus

Stomach acid backs up into the esophagus
from acid reflux or GERD, causing injury to
the esophageal lining.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a disorder in which stomach acid and enzymes cause injury to the esophageal lining, producing symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, and chest pain. In some patients with GERD, the normal esophagus cells are damaged. Over time, this damage can result in inflammation and genetic changes that cause the cells to become altered. The tissue takes on a different appearance and microscopically is no longer esophagus tissue, but rather becomes intestinal tissue. This is called “intestinal metaplasia” or Barrett’s esophagus. If a patient has GERD symptoms more than 3 times per week, he or she should consult their physician.

  • Approximately 13% of Caucasian men over the age of 50, who have chronic reflux, will develop Barrett's esophagus
  • In a study conducted by the Veteran Affairs Healthcare System and Stanford University, 25% of patients over 50 years old without GERD symptoms were found to have Barrett's esophagus
  • GERD is common in the U.S. adult population. Symptoms of GERD, including heartburn, occur monthly in almost 44% of U.S. adults and weekly in almost 18%
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