EXPLAINER: What is Barrett's esophagus

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 26 2020 02:35 PM


MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte revealed Tuesday that he was at risk of developing cancer due to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus.

In 2018, the 75-year-old chief executive said he was diagnosed with the disease, which is an inflammation of the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach due to acid reflux.

The country's oldest elected official remains "fit and healthy" for his age despite the disease, Malacañang said Wednesday.

WHO ARE AT RISK?

The illness occurs more often in men than women (3:1 ratio), while its prevalence increases with age, with the average age of diagnosis at 55 years, according to US private medical center Johns Hopkins University.

"The condition is recognized as a complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Its importance lies in its predisposition to evolve into esophageal cancer," it said in its official website.

"Although the risk of developing esophageal cancer is small, it's important to have regular checkups with careful imaging and extensive biopsies of the esophagus to check for precancerous cells (dysplasia). If precancerous cells are discovered, they can be treated to prevent esophageal cancer."

Current or past smoking and being overweight also increase a patient's risk to developing the disease, according to nonprofit academic medical center MayoClinic.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Most patients complain of heartburn, indigestion, blood in vomit or stool, difficulty in swallowing solid food, or nocturnal regurgitation, according to Johns Hopkins. It does not produce symptoms distinct from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or esophageal inflammation, it added.

The disease is a consequence of GERD, which is the regurgitation of gastric contents into the esophagus, and serious cases may cause erosions or ulcers, the university said.

TREATMENT

Treatment for Barrett's esophagus depends on the growth of abnormal or precancerous cells in the patient's esophagus, MayoClinic said.

It varies from surgery, periodic endoscopy, endoscopic resection or the removal of damaged cells, radiofrequency ablation or the removal of abnormal esophagus tissue, or cryotherapy to freeze and thaw damages of the abnormal cells.