Swedish Medical Center Heartburn Center is dedicated to curing Barrett's Esophagus, a condition that can put patients at higher risk for esophageal cancer.

Barrett's Esophagus occurs when the cells of the lower esophagus are changed due to chronic exposure to stomach acid (reflux). Normally, the cells of the lower esophagus are like skin cells, but after irritation and damage, they can change to cells that form glands and secrete mucus. This genetic damage, called metaplasia, puts the patient at a much increased risk (30-125 times) for esophageal cancer. The incidence of esophagus cancer has risen about six-fold in the U.S. since the 1970s. It is rising faster than breast cancer, prostate cancer, or melanoma.

Diagnosis

The first step to curing Barrett's Esophagus is finding the right diagnosis. A diagnosis is often made during an endoscopy during which something unusual is identified and a follow up biopsy is taken. An endoscopy is performed under sedation and a small, lighted tube with a camera is passed through the mouth into the esophagus, stomach and upper intestines.

Treatment

Treatment for the first stage of Barrett's Esophagus often includes active surveillance or treatment for reflux and/or hiatal hernia such as a nissen fundoplication. However, when the cells progress to what is called dysplasia cells, patients require treatment such as radiofrequency ablation using BarrX or endoscopic mucosal resection. These treatments are minimally invasive and allow physicians to eliminate the mutated cells, which the body then replaces with normal cells. Surgical options include Esophgyx/EGS, Linx, Laparsocopic Fundopliation.