Barrett’s esophagus is a lesion that is often diagnosed after an upper endoscopy and biopsy of the esophagus. During an endoscopy, your surgeon will see a discoloration of the esophagus mucosa, which is suspicious for Barrett’s esophagus. Your surgeon will take a biopsy and send that tissue to pathology, where the tissue is analyzed and the diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus is officially made.
Barrett’s esophagus is important because it is the strongest risk factor known for developing esophageal cancer. Once the lesion is discovered, your physician will determine a scheduled surveillance test to monitor the lesion.
Barrett’s esophagus is an acquired disorder, which is thought to occur in response to chronic exposure of acid due to acid reflux.
There are a few risk factors for Barret’s esophagus and those include age above 60, male sex, Caucasian male, and reflux symptoms. Based on these risk factors, your doctor may decide to perform and upper endoscopy on you when present with reflux.
Esophageal cancer occurs in about 0.5% of patients with Barrett’s esophagus, therefore the experts recommend surveillance endoscopy to be performed within one year of the diagnosis. If there are no changes within one year, then surveillance can be done 3 years later, and then extended to 5 years.