World Barrett’s Oesophagus Day 2023

16th May 2023

Each year, the 16th May marks World Barrett’s Oesophagus Day. Barrett’s oesophagus affects around 10% of those with persistent heartburn.

What is Barrett’s oesophagus?

Barrett’s oesophagus is the term used for a potentially pre-cancerous condition where the normal cells lining the oesophagus, also known as the gullet or food pipe, have been replaced with abnormal cells.

The abnormal cells start from where the oesophagus meets the stomach and spread upwards. The main concern is that a small number of people with Barrett’s oesophagus will develop oesophageal cancer, though the majority will not.

What are the usual symptoms of Barrett’s oesophagus?

The main symptom is reflux.

Other symptoms include:

  • Heartburn.
  • Regurgitation.
  • Nausea.
  • Pain in the upper abdomen.
  • May also experience a metallic taste in your mouth or a chronic sore throat particularly in the mornings as reflux is usually worse after a period spent lying down.
  • Reflux symptoms that wake you at night time are a particularly strong risk factor.

If I have Barrett’s oesophagus will I definitely develop oesophageal cancer?

The short answer is no. However you are more likely than to develop oesophageal cancer than someone who doesn’t have Barrett’s oesophagus.

3 in 1000 people to 6 in 1000 people may develop oesophageal cancer per year which is a lifetime risk of 7.5-12.5% depending on several risk factors including how long Barrett’s has been present.

Does Barrett’s oesophagus need to be monitored?

Monitoring Barrett’s oesophagus is a vital and lifelong part of treatment.

Even if no dysplasia (abnormal cells) is found at endoscopy, this does not mean that it won’t develop in the future.

You are usually entered into a surveillance programme with regular and appropriate monitoring, usually by endoscopy. The frequency of surveillance endoscopy varies from person to person and depends on the type and length of the dysplasia.

Guts UK’s research for Barrett’s oesophagus patients:

Dr Christodoulou's research

Dr Christodoulou is continuing the promising results shown by Dr Jamel, discovering whether a breath test can be developed to pick up oesophageal cancer earlier, which could save lives!

Currently, people with Barrett’s oesophagus have a routine endoscopy test (a small camera on a thin flexible tube looks at the lining of oesophagus). Small samples of the lining (biopsies) can be taken to ensure that there are no signs of cancer.

The main research question is whether the cell changes in Barrett’s oesophagus can be detected by testing the breath of people with the condition. This will provide an easier and kinder way to identify people at high risk of having dysplasia who should then have close monitoring to detect any signs of early cancer.

Discover more here.

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