Because the signs of Barrett's esophagus are similar to those of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you'll undergo a procedure called an upper endoscopy, usually performed by a gastroenterologist or surgical endoscopist.
An upper endoscopy is a procedure done under conscious sedation that examines:
- The lining of the esophagus
- The stomach
- The first portion of the small intestine (called the duodendum)
During the procedure, a thin, flexible endoscope tube is guided down your throat to check the color of the esophagus tissue and see if a biopsy is needed. A Barrett’s esophagus diagnosis is confirmed if the biopsy finds intestinal cells in the esophagus.
If you have Barrett's esophagus, doctors typically treat the GERD symptoms, not Barrett's esophagus, specifically.
GERD treatment can include:
- Histamine receptor antagonists medication
- Proton pump inhibitor medication
Your doctor may also recommend for you to have the upper endoscopy procedure with biopsies on a regular basis for the remainder of your life.
How often you receive the endoscopy is determined by the grade of Barrett's esophagus.
- IM without dysplasia – approximately every 3 years
- IM with low-grade dysplasia – every 6 to 12 months, due to increased cancer risk
- IM with high-grade dysplasia – every 3 months or referral for immediate therapy
Other treatment options include endoscopic radiofrequency ablation therapy, which can eliminate the Barrett’s tissue completely. Consult your physician to determine the optimal approach for your treatment.