World Barrett’s Oesophagus Day

Thursday 16th May 2024

World Barrett's Oesophagus Day takes place on May 16th each year.

Guts UK is dedicated to research in this area, and have also sponsored a James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) Research priority setting into Barrett's oesophagus and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.

Barrett’s oesophagus is the term used for a potentially pre-cancerous condition. In this condition, 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.  Barrett’s oesophagus affects around 1 in 10 of those with persistent heartburn. The main concern is that a small number of people with Barrett’s oesophagus will develop oesophageal cancer, though the majority will not.

Geoff’s story – Barrett’s oesophagus and diverticulosis

Around a year ago, I was diagnosed at another endoscopy with Barrett’s oesophagus. I am now booked in for endoscopies every few years to monitor the Barrett’s and check for cell changes that might indicate oesophageal cancer. I was told to watch my diet but given little to no direction or support.” – Read Geoff’s story here.

Geoff is wearing the Guts UK blue t-shirt with a burgundy jacket on top. He is stood smiling at the camera stood under a bushy garden hedge.

What are the 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.

Why is awareness of Barrett’s oesophagus so important?

Our guts have been underfunded, underappreciated and misunderstood for decades. People are suffering. In silence. And alone. It’s time to change this.

Guts UK is dedicated to:

  • Raising awareness of the under-recognised symptoms of Barrett’s oesophagus, empowering people to seek help sooner.
  • Funding life-changing research into Barrett’s oesophagus, to help towards earlier diagnosis and developing new treatments so that people get the help they need, sooner.
  • Providing expert information to patients and families affected by Barrett’s oesophagus. At Guts UK, we aim to get our patient information into the hands of those who need it most, when they need it most.

What research does Guts UK fund into Barrett’s oesophagus?

Dr Sara Jamel is exploring the use of breath-testing for pre-cancerous cell changes in patients with Barrett’s oesophagus.

Several research areas are needed to improve the treatment of Barrett’s oesophagus. Early diagnosis is a key strategy in cancer research, and work using non-endoscopic methods to find Barrett’s includes saliva biomarkersbreath testing, and the newly introduced Cytosponge©. Blood markers for identification of Barrett’s oesophagus are also being considered, but much more research and trials are needed before these can be used.

There is also work needed to assess more accurately which patients are likely to progress to oesophageal cancer, improving the quality of surveillance endoscopy and improving access to specialist centres for treatment.

Could breath testing lead to earlier detection of oesophageal cancer?

Olympus/Guts UK’s research fellow Dr Sara Jamel was awarded £210,000 for a 3-year project starting in 2019. Dr Jamel’s innovative project will explore the use of breath-testing for pre-cancerous cell changes in people with Barrett’s oesophagusIf successful, this breath test could save lives by diagnosing oesophageal cancer early, when it is far more treatable. 

Dr Katja Christodoulou, who was the recipient of Guts UK’s Derek Butler Fellowship in 2022, 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 (changes to cells in the gullet) who should then have close monitoring to detect any signs of early cancer. Find out more here.

Guts UK charity have also sponsored a Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) Research priority setting in Barrett’s oesophagus. This is where people with lived experience of Barrett’s oesophagus, their family and carers meet with doctors and researchers to decide what questions should be answered by research.”

How can you help raise awareness of Barrett's oesophagus?

Help us raise awareness of Barrett’s oesophagus by:

  • Following us on social media and sharing our awareness and information posts throughout May and on World Barrett’s Oesophagus Day itself (16th May). You never know who we might reach and help together. FacebookLinkedInInstagramTwitter/X.
  • Share your own experience, or a loved ones experience to your own circles, and on your own social media channels.
  • Fundraise for Guts UK Charity to help change lives going forward.
  • Donate £3 per month to Guts UK Charity. For the price of a cuppa, you can change and save lives.
  • If you have your own awareness plans, don’t hesitate to contact us as we may be able to send you some magazines or posters!

Discover more: