Barrett's Esophagus


Barrett's esophagus - What is it?


    •    In a study published in 2005, Barrett's esophagus was estimated to affect approximately 3.3 million adults over 50 years of age in the United States.
    •    People with Barrett's esophagus are 30 to125 times more likely to develop cancer of the esophagus than the general population.
    •    The incidence of esophagus cancer has risen about six-fold in the U.S. since the 1970s. It is rising faster than breast cancer, prostate cancer, or melanoma.
    •    While the average age at diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus is 50, it is difficult to determine when the disease developed and thus, how long a patient has been affected.
    •    Men develop Barrett’s esophagus twice as often as women, and Caucasian men are affected more often than men of other races. Barrett’s esophagus is uncommon in children.

In the U.S., three million chronic heartburn sufferers have now been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition. Even more people are unaware that they are living with the condition because medications that are used to treat heartburn symptoms can mask this serious problem.

barrett's esophogus

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition affecting the lining of the esophagus, the swallowing tube that carries foods and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. Barrett's esophagus is caused by injury to the esophagus from the chronic backwash of stomach contents (like acid and enzymes) that occurs with acid reflux. There are no symptoms specific to Barrett’s esophagus, other than the typical symptoms of acid reflux (or GERD).

In some people, the damage and inflammation associated with acid reflux can cause genetic changes that cause the normal esophagus tissue to change into intestinal tissue. When that happens, it is called Barrett’s esophagus (also known as intestinal metaplasia). 

Who should be treated?

If you have frequent or long-standing acid reflux symptoms. Left untreated, acid reflux can lead to the development of pre-cancerous cells. In a small percentage of patients, that can result in a life-threatening cancer of the esophagus (esophageal adenocarcinoma or EAC).

How is it treated?

An outpatient treatment that destroys the pre-cancerous tissue in the lining of the esophagus is now available at Hamilton Medical Center. The procedure, endoscopic radiofrequency ablation therapy using the HALO System, was recently featured in the New England Journal of Medicine as a highly effective treatment for complete eradication of Barrett’s esophagus.

If left untreated

Esophageal cancer is often incurable because the disease is frequently discovered in the advanced stages. Esophageal cancer has a five-year patient survival rate of just 16 percent. It usually starts with GERD, which can cause Barrett’s disease, which can lead to esophageal cancer. That’s why it’s important to seek medical treatment for symptoms of GERD, the most common being heartburn.


Hamilton's Physician Referral line at 706-272-6100.

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Heartburn can lead to something more serious!