Barrett’s is defined as the presence of a specialized intestinal lining within the esophagus. The lining is the same type of tissue present in the stomach. The risk of Barrett’s esophagus increases after a 10 year-period of reflux. The risk of esophageal cancer in people with Barrett’s is 40 fold higher compared to people with a normal esophagus. Risks of cancer increase with smoking and alcohol abuse and cancer is most common in Caucasian men. The diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus can only be made on upper endoscopy using a biopsy forceps. Barrett’s requires regular upper endoscopy and biopsies in order to detect precancerous changes.
Treatment for Barrett’s esophagus requires strict control of reflux with diet, medication and, in some cases, laparoscopic surgery. Future studies will confirm the use of endoscopic laser therapy to destroy Barrett’s esophageal lining.