Okay, I had a colonoscopy & they also looked at my esophagus & stomach on Saturday........I am worried b/c I was pretty druuged up & don't remember specifics. I have a sheet that says Barrett's Epithelium.....what exactly is that? Does that mean I have cancer. I am supposed to call on Tuesday afternoon, but am very anxious right now for answers. Any help would be appreciated.
It's not cancer, but Barrett's is considered a pre-cancerous condition. The cells in your esophagus have begun to take on the nature of the cells in your stomach, although in an unnatural way. This is most likely a reaction to your esophagus having prolonged exposure to acid.
Barrett's is the first pre-cancerous stage, and can be stopped so that there is no further progression to low grade dysplasia, medium grade dysplasia, high grade dysplasia, Carcinoma in Situ, and stages 1, 2, 3, or 4 of esophageal cancer.
You will want to have a full a open dialogue with your Gastroenterologist and your Primary Care Physician about ways of stopping the Barrett's in its tracks. The first step is to eliminate the cause of the Barrett's; the acid reflux. That can be accomplished through a number of ways, including diet (some foods relax the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (the "LES")), which is the barrier that is intended to prevent acid from gettting into your esophagus; eating smaller, more frequent meals to limit the stimulation of acid by your stomach; sleeping with the head of your bed elevated to let gravity help keep acid from backing up into your esophagus at night; not eating within three hours of going to bed; avoiding alcohol and caffiene (they relax the LES); The use of acid inhibiting medications (there are a number to chose from); and in a worst case scenario, surgery to repair the LES. The surgery should not be contemplated until you have had further testing to determine the extent of the problem, and only (in my opinion) if the other steps don't provide results.
Finally, you should have the Barrett's monitored semi-annually or annually by endoscopic biopsies for a period of time until your medical team is sure that the change in cellular structure has stopped.
You are right to be concerned, but many people develop Barrett's and never get esophageal cancer. To tip the odds in your favor, the lifestyle and dietary changes mentioned above, in concert with ongoing medical surviellance should be followed rigorously.
thank you so much. I feel alot better now. I have not really had any reflux issues lately, but when I got pregnant with my son, who is now 11 mos, I had some major reflux problems along with IBS like symptoms. I have still had the IBS like stuff and weight loss which is what led to this appointment in the first place. It scared me b/c like I said, I don't have reflux at this point. They prescribed Nexium and I will call on Tuesday afternoon for the biopsy results. I feel alot better now though. They also told me about diet changes.....eating more fiber, more fruits more veggies and I have already begun that. I have also limited my amount of caffeine. Thank you again for easing my mind.
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