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Barrett’s Esophagus Definition
Changes to the lining of the ESOPHAGUS in which the tissue becomes similar to that of the intestine. The altered tissue is Barrett’s esophagus does not itself cause symptoms, though the condition often appears in association with GASTROESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISORDER (GERD), which does cause symptoms.
The key clinical significance of Barrett’s esophagus is its association with a rare and deadly form of CANCER, esophageal ADENOCARCINOMA. Though few people who have Barrett’s esophagus will develop esophageal adenocarcinoma, nearly everyone who does develop esophageal adenocarcinoma also has Barrett’s esophagus.
Diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus requires endoscopic biopsy of the esophageal lining. Altered tissue often appears reddened in endoscopic visualization, though appearance cannot make the diagnosis as GERD also can cause INFLAMMATION and irritation of the esophageal lining that causes it to appear reddened.
A person who has confirmed Barrett’s esophagus should undergo periodic endoscopic biopsy as a measure to detect further changes in the tissue (dysplasia) that could indicate a developing cancer. Esophageal adenocarcinoma appears to develop slowly, with a period of years during which the tissue changes are transitional. Dysplasia or cancer requires appropriate treatment, which varies according to individual health circumstances. There are no treatments for Barrett’s esophagus or to prevent its conversion to esophageal adenocarcinoma.