World Barrett’s Oesophagus Day 2022

15th May 2022

Each year, the 16th May marks World Barrett’s Oesophagus Day. Barrett’s oesophagus affects around 10% of those who suffer with persistent heartburn… but have you heard of it?

What is Barrett’s oesophagus?

Barrett’s oesophagus is where the normal cells that line the oesophagus (food pipe) have been replaced with abnormal cells (known as dysplasia). These abnormal cells are caused by acid reflux damaging the oesophagus.

Symptoms of Barrett’s oesophagus include acid reflux, which can cause heartburn, pain in the upper abdomen, nausea and sometimes regurgitation of food. People may also have a metallic taste in the mouth, or a chronic sore throat.

Barrett’s oesophagus is typically diagnosed by examining the lining of the oesophagus using an endoscopy (a small camera down mouth or nose). Small samples of tissue from your oesophagus are taken and examined.

Barrett’s oesophagus can be classified as ‘high grade dysplasia’ or ‘low grade dysplasia’. Dysplasia is the term used for the cells growing abnormally. The more abnormal these cells look under a microscope, the higher the grade.

Can Barrett’s oesophagus turn into cancer?

The vast majority of people with Barrett’s oesophagus don’t progress to develop oesophageal cancer, but they will still require monitoring. This is because those with Barrett’s oesophagus are more likely to develop oesophageal cancer than the general population.

Around 3 to 13 in every 100 people with Barrett’s oesophagus will go on to develop oesophageal cancer in their lifetime. Therefore, although the lifetime risk is low, monitoring Barrett’s oesophagus is a vital and lifelong part of treatment.

Can Barrett’s oesophagus be cured?

In most people, Barrett’s oesophagus is lifelong and therefore cannot be cured. However, there are treatments available that can ‘remove’ abnormal cells. Alongside, there are medications you can take to reduce the amount of stomach acid you produce, to prevent further damage to the oesophagus. Discover more about Barrett’s oesophagus treatments here.

What can I do to help?

Guts UK is proud to be funding Barrett’s oesophagus and oesophageal cancer research. Dr Sara Jamel is exploring a non-invasive, alternative test to an endoscopy to diagnose oesophageal cancer earlier in those with Barrett’s oesophagus. The team are exploring whether they can diagnose oesophageal cancer using samples of breath. If successful, this could save lives by diagnosing oesophageal cancer early, using a simple test, when it is far more treatable.

Together, we can give people a fighting chance. Your donations and kindness make this possible. Help the UK get to grips with guts by supporting Guts UK today.

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