Jaime Zighelboim, M.D.
Gastroenterology & Hepatology (Digestive Care)
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Barrett's esophagus screening helps with early diagnosis of esophageal cancer
About 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month, especially after a large or spicy meal. However, if your symptoms occur two or more times per week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Symptoms can include heartburn, regurgitation and/or difficulty swallowing. Try these tips to manage GERD.
If left untreated, GERD could lead to Barrett’s esophagus, in which the lining of the esophagus becomes stomach-like in response to abnormal acid exposure over a long period. Barrett's esophagus is associated with an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer, and, like most cancers, it is easier to treat if detected early. Your doctor may recommend that you be screened for Barrett's esophagus if you have long-standing GERD.
Factors increasing your risk for Barrett's esophagus include:
- Experiencing chronic GERD
- Being a man
- Being 50+
- Being obese
- Being Caucasian
- Having a family history of Barrett’s
To be screened for Barrett's esophagus, you will have a procedure called esophagogastroduodenoscopy, also known as an upper GI endoscopy or EGD. It is an outpatient procedure, which means you will go home after the procedure and not stay in the hospital overnight. During the procedure, a thin, flexible telescope is inserted through your mouth to inspect your esophagus, stomach and first part of the small bowel. Tissue samples, called biopsies, may be taken depending on what is found.
An EGD typically takes less than 30 minutes. You will receive medication that decreases your level of consciousness causing short-term memory loss, so there usually is little or no recollection of the procedure. The medication also decreases levels of anxiety and keeps any discomfort to a minimum.
If Barrett’s esophagus is found, your treatment plan will depend on biopsy results. You may be advised to undergo periodic EGDs, usually once every three years. Or you may need additional endoscopic treatments to eliminate the segment of Barrett’s. If there is no evidence of Barrett’s, another EGD typically is not necessary unless you experience additional symptoms.
Jaime Zighelboim, M.D., is a gastroenterologist in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.