Early Detection of Barrett's Esophagus Saves Lives

Prolonged Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) can cause the cells in the esophagus to change into more acid-resistant cells, leading to Barrett's esophagus. Once diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus, individuals have up to a 125-fold chance of developing esophageal cancer.

Barrett's esophagus is the most common form of esophageal cancer, occurring in 80 to 90 percent of patients. This form of esophageal cancer has increased 350 percent in the past 10 to 15 years, which mirrors the dramatic rise of obesity in the US. More than 3 million people are living with Barrett's esophagus.

Esophageal cancer is often not discovered until its reached advanced stages, when a tumor has formed that is large enough to make swallowing difficult. Treatment at this stage is rarely successful.

Make an Appointment for GERD Treatment

Luis Reyes, MD, FACS, FASMBS, is Medical Director of Bariatrics at South Texas Health System Heart. Dr. Reyes has been performing surgery for over 15 years and specializes in general, vascular and weight-loss surgery. To make an appointment with Dr. Reyes, please contact Valley Care Clinics Weight Loss Surgery Center at 956-630-4161.

To make an appointment with Gastroenterologist Dr. Ralph Alhalel, please call 956-661-9300.

Promising New Medical Techniques

Fortunately, there are new medical techniques that can virtually cure esophageal cancer if caught in its early stages, before cancerous cells have invaded the deep structures of the esophagus. The ablation procedures cryoablation and radio frequency ablation use technologies that zap dangerous cells in the esophagus. Other procedures shave off cancerous and pre-cancerous cells. 

When to Talk to Your Doctor

If you have GERD, or have been experiencing heartburn two to three times a week for several weeks, speak with your physician about the risk of developing Barrett's esophagus. Even those individuals whose symptoms are controlled are still at risk. An endoscopy and biopsy performed is the only way to diagnosis Barrett's.

Source: Esophageal Cancer Action Network