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Barrett's Esophagus
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Barrett's esophagus

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DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
Cancer

Barrett's esophagus is a complication of long term acid reflux disease. Barrett's esophagus is, the link between Barrett's esophagus and acid reflux disease, and the link to esophageal cancer.

Common heartburn isn't always just an annoying condition that's quickly remedied by an over-the-counter antacid. It can also be symptomatic of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is the chronic regurgitation of acid from your stomach into your lower esophagus. And, long-term GERD can sometimes lead to Barrett's esophagus, a condition in which the color and composition of the cells lining your lower esophagus change because of repeated exposure to stomach acid. Having Barrett's esophagus increases your risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Barrett's esophagus is uncommon. Only a small percentage of people with GERD develop Barrett's. But once it's diagnosed, there's a much greater risk of developing esophageal cancer, which often spreads from the esophagus to lymph nodes and to other organs. Although increased, the absolute risk of esophageal cancer for someone with Barrett's esophagus is small - less than one percent a year.

Signs and symptoms

Barrett's esophagus itself isn't associated with specific symptoms. But, heartburn and acid reflux — the bad-tasting liquid that may enter your mouth from your throat — are common indicators of GERD. And having GERD can lead to Barrett's esophagus.

A telltale sign of Barrett's esophagus occurs when the color of the tissue lining the lower esophagus changes from its normal pink to a salmon color. This process, called metaplasia, is caused by repeated and long-term exposure to stomach acid.

Other signs and symptoms of GERD that also may be associated with Barrett's esophagus or even rarely esophageal cancer include:

  • Trouble swallowing. Often, a narrowing of the esophagus (esophageal stricture) leads to difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).

  • Bleeding. You may vomit red blood or blood that looks like coffee grounds.

  • Unusual stools. Your stools may be black, tarry or bloody.

  • Weight loss. You may experience an unexpected drop in weight.

 

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