What is Barrett’s Esophagus?
Barrett’s esophagus describes a condition where the cells lining the lower esophagus change. The esophagus is the swallowing tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.
There are 800,000 Canadians living with this disorder – nearly half of these have no symptoms. It is believed those living with Barrett’s esophagus are at an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer so it is important that those at risk be tested for the disorder.
Who is at risk of Barrett’s esophagus?
Risk factors include being older than 50 years, male, Caucasian, family history and having experienced reflux symptoms for longer than one year. Diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus requires that suspected patients undergo endoscopy and biopsy.
Many questions about this disorder remain unanswered. We do not fully understand what predisposes some people to develop the condition. Accordingly, it is not known whether all people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) should be tested for Barrett’s esophagus, or only those with specific risk factors.
What to ask your doctor:
Create a list of 3 to 6 questions to ask your doctor during your appointment. Specifically, you may want to ask your doctor some of the following:
Questions about Testing
- What tests do I need to do? What should I expect?
- How long do the tests take?
- Will I be awake? If not, how long will I be asleep?
- Do the tests require samples for a biopsy?
- Are there potential complications from the tests?
- What if I don’t take the tests?
- Is there anything that I need to do to prepare for the procedure?
- How long will it take for me to recover?
- How soon will I know the results of the tests?
- What is my risk for Barrett’s esophagus?
- What is my risk for esophageal cancer?
- Will I need regular exams in the future? If so, how often and for how long?
- Am I at risk for cancer?
Questions about diagnosis and treatment:
- Do I have Barrett’s esophagus? If so, how serious is it?
- How was the diagnosis confirmed?
- Do you recommend another exam?
- How much of my esophagus is affected?
- Am I at risk of cancer?
- What are my treatment options?
- Which treatment reduces my progression risk the most?
- Will you conduct the treatment, or will you refer me to someone else?
- What result do you expect from the treatment? How will I know that it is working?
- Will the treatment cure my condition? If not, are there other treatments that might?
- What can I expect of the treatment?
- Will I need to stay in the hospital? If so, how long?
- Are there any possible side effects? Are there any that I should report to you immediately?
- What do I need to do to prepare for the treatment?
- Will I need to do anything after the treatment?
- Will I still need to continue my medications?
- Will there be any additional follow-up testing after the treatment?
- What will happen if I decide to opt out of treatment?
- What will be the risk of progressing to cancer if I decide to opt out of treatment?
These resources were made possible through a partnership between Medtronic and CDHF