A Barrett’s Esophagus cure has not yet been found but that should not worry you if you or someone you love has been diagnosed, for the condition can be easily controlled. Barrett’s is more common in people between 50-70 years of age, Barrett’s esophagus occurs because of long-term reflux of gastric acid into the esophagus. Persistent acid reflux causes epithelial cells, cells on the lining of the esophagus, to change.
The changed cells in the esophagus, the event that defines Barrett’s esophagus, sometimes develop dysplasia (an abnormal structure). Cells that have dysplasia, however, are not cancerous cells. Yes, they have a higher chance than normal cells to turn cancerous but they are not cancerous in nature by default.
The risk of having cells with dysplasia in Barrett’s Esophagus is very low, only one in every twenty patients have cells with dysplasia. Presence of dysplasia, in turn, marginally increases your risk to esophageal cancer, a rare type of cancer, if you have Barretts Esophagus. The lifetime risk of developing esophageal cancer, which includes lymphoma and tumors in the esophagus, in men and women diagnosed with this condition is one in twenty and one in thirty-three, respectively.
Heartburn is the most common symptom of Barrett’s esophagus. Other common symptoms are bloating, belching, nausea, acidic taste in the mouth, and pain in the chest or abdomen.
Patients diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus with no or low-grade dysplasia are generally prescribed acid-suppressing drugs. These drugs help keep heartburn and other symptoms in check. In addition, patients are advised to follow a diet void of foods that can aggravate their condition, like deep-fried foods, spicy foods, fast foods, citrus fruits, etc.
The treatment does not entail Barrett Esophagus cure and as the condition can progress to dysplasia and then cancer, although rarely, it becomes important to monitor the condition regularly. The frequency of endoscopy and biopsy tests varies from patient to patient and depends on whether he or she has dysplasia or not.
- For no or low grade dysplasia—One endoscopy in the first year and, if it too does not reveal any dysplasia, then one three years after it.
- For high grade dysplasia – A check after every three to six months is recommended
When a patient develops high-grade dysplasia, the recommended treatment focuses on removal of the affected area. Treatments through which this can be done include:
- Surgery—The traditional treatment in case of high-grade dysplasia or esophagial cancer is surgery. Complications may occur during or after the operation, so it is best you discuss all the pros and cons associated with it with your doctor.
- Radiofrequency—Recent studies show that this new procedure, in which heat generated by radio waves is used for destroying selective cells, is quite effective in killing dysplastic cells.
- Argon plasma coagulation—Argon gas along with electric current is used for destroying dysplastic cells.
- Epithelial radiofrequency ablation (EFA for short)—The procedure involves endoscopy and use of a radiofrequency energy coil. The latter is guided towards the affected area, and the heat emitted from the coil destroys the abnormal cells.
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT for short)—In this procedure, a patient is first given a medicine that makes him or her ultra-sensitive to light. Next, through endoscopy a laser light is shone at the affected area, killing the dysplastic cells, which are in time then replaced by normal cells.