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Barrett's Esophagus - The Body's Early Warning Defense System For Esophageal Cancer

Mary Ruff King

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Barrett's esophagus, also called Barrett esophagus, results from repetitive reflux or backing up of stomach acid and contents into the esophagus. With the passage of time, this constant assault causes injury and can cause pre-malignant changes to occur to the esophageal tissues.

The body's ability to heal is a marvelous thing to witness, and we have all seen it firsthand when we have sustained cuts, bruises, wounds, and broken bones (during childhood at the very least) and have lived to tell the tale. When such injuries occur, our bodies produce new cells and form scar tissues to repair the damages.

But the marvelous adaptability of the human body does have its limits. In the case of Barrett esophagus, normal cells lining the esophagus called squamous epithelium (the type most prevalent in the body) that have fought the good fight finally give up and start to mutate to columnar epithelium, the cell type found in the stomach. Of those who suffer from chronic acid reflux, 9-15% will undergo this cellular surrender and adaptation. This esophageal cellular change, called metaplasia, enables the esophagus to withstand the constant barrage of stomach acid/contents.

Now this may sound like a good thing: after all, when this occurs the acid reflux sufferer may experience relief from symptoms that may seem like his/her acid reflux is improving. This is, however, a mistaken belief because the esophageal cells are mutating and advancing to a pre-cancerous condition. Does this mean that a person with Barrett's esophagus will get cancer? The answer is no, but there is a higher incidence, approximately 30-100 times higher, that a person with this condition will be predisposed to it.

Acid reflux has gotten a lot of press over the years, which is good. New medications have been developed to deal with it. Once thought to be just a nuisance, this condition has been taken more seriously and people are more educated about it.

Now people are becoming educated about Barrett esophagus, also a good thing. Knowledge is power, and the more all of us know about this condition, the sooner we can get medical intervention and the proper treatment to greatly diminish the odds that it will advance to esophageal cancer, which continues to rise and has a mortality rate exceeding 80% after five years. Early detection is key, and there is now hope that the mortality rate of esophageal cancer can be drastically reduced.

The best defense is a good offense not only holds true in football but also in medicine. Never was this truer than with esophageal cancer and its early warning defense system, Barrett's esophagus.

Barrett's Esophagus is not a death sentence. Knowledge is power, so learn more about it by going here: Acid Reflux Info Center .

Educational videos pertaining to acid reflux and Barrett's esophagus, as well as a list of foods which acid reflux sufferers can eat, should not eat, and may eat every now and then, are available on this website.


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