Barett’s esophagus is a medical condition wherein the tissues or cells in the lining of your esophagus get damaged due to prolonged exposure to acid from the intestine. This is known to happen primarily to patients who are suffering from gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), which is also known as heartburn.
GERD is a medical condition caused when muscles situated at the lower part of your esophagus are unable to function properly. As a result, instead of closing and preventing acid and food from being flushed back up into your esophagus, they let it come back. Due to repeated exposure to intestinal acid, the cells or tissues of your esophagus can show certain abnormalities.
There are several methods of treating people suffering from Barrett’s esophagus condition like Photodynamic therapy, Radiofrequency ablation, Endoscopic mucosal resection, and surgical Esophagectomy.
Specific Risk Factors of Barrett’s Esophagus
Who are really at risk of Barrett’s esophagus condition? There are several factors that play an important role in increasing the risk of developing Barrett’s Esophagus. They are:
a) Age: Age is one of the most important factors causing Barrett’s esophagus. This medical condition is normally diagnosed in middle-aged people and older adults. The average age of people diagnosed with this medical condition is 55 years. Although it is extremely rare, but children can also develop Barrett’s esophagus before they are 5 years of age.
b) Gender: Research and clinical studies have revealed that men are more likely to be diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus as compared to women.
c) GERD/Acid Reflux: Chronic heartburn and acid reflux are clear symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and people suffering from this medical condition for over 10 years are at a higher risk of Barrett’s esophagus.
d) Lifestyle: Research and clinical studies have revealed that smokers are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus vis–à–vis non smokers.
e) Ethnicity: Barrett’s esophagus condition is more common among white populations. It is less common among Hispanics, and extremely rare among Black and Asian populations.
Increasing the Risk of Cancer
Barrett’s esophagus increases the risk of certain types of cancer. The cause and development of invasive cancer like adenocarcinoma can be attributed to Barrett’s esophagus condition. Adenocarcinoma cannot develop on its own. Adenocarcinoma in known to develop in a sequential manner in Barrett’s esophagus and has several stages marking different changes. It transforms from non dysplastic (metaplastic) to low-grade and further on to become high-grade dysplasia. If left untreated or undetected, it can lead to invasive cancer.
People diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus are at a higher risk of esophageal cancer. The most common symptoms of esophageal cancer include weight loss and trouble swallowing. This type of cancer can be diagnosed only through biopsy done using an endoscope. There are two different varieties of this cancer – the squamous and the adenocarcinoma. The primary cause of adenocarcinoma esophageal cancer is Barrett esophagus or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Esophageal cancer is considered as the 8th most common type of cancer across the world and has led to around 400,000 deaths in 2012.