Barrett’s Oesophagus


 

Introduction

Barrett’s oesophagus is common condition, which may affect up to 1 in 20 people. In patients with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, which may or may not cause them symptoms, the lining of the gullet (oesophagus) can change to become more like the lining of the stomach and more resistant to acid. This change in the lining of the oesophagus is termed Barrett’s oesophagus.  This change in the lining may lead to an increased risk of developing cancer of the oesophagus. Though, the risk of this occurring is low - only 1-2 in 100 people with Barrett’s oesophagus will develop cancer in their lifetime.

How is Barrett’s oesophagus diagnosed?

If you have an endoscopy to look in to the oesophagus and stomach, the doctor can see if there is evidence of Barrett’s oesophagus. If the doctor suspects Barrett’s oesophagus they often take a small sample of tissue from the oesophagus (called a biopsy). This tissue sample is sent to a laboratory and examined under a microscope to look at the type of cells that are present. See here

Treatment for Barrett’s oesophagus

The current recommendations for patients with Barrett’s oesophagus are:

  1. To take acid suppressing medication long term. The most common type of medication to use is a proton pump inhibitor e.g. lansoprazole or omeprazole.
  2. A regular endoscopy every two years. At the time of the endoscopy biopsy samples will be taken from the stomach to assess for dysplasia (change in the cells).
  3. If you develop any changes within the Barrett’s segment (called dysplasia) then your doctor may increase the frequency of repeating the endoscopy/ gastroscopy and they may also take more samples.
  4. If there is high grade dysplasia (a lot of changes) then a number of treatment options are available and these can be discussed with your doctor at consultation.