Barrett's esophagus is a condition where the cells in the lining of the lower esophagus undergo a change to include goblet cells (normally found only in the intestines). It is found in approximately 5-15% of those that have GERD (heartburn). Although the presence of Barrett's Esophagus may itself be asymptomatic, it is associated with development of esophageal cancer, which rarely presents in early stages and thus can be quite fatal. Of those with Barrett's Esophagus, there is a 0.5% chance of development of esophageal cancer each year. For those with high grade dysplasia, there is approximately 10% chance per year of developing esophageal cancer. Early-grade dysplasias can be treated endoscopically by gastroenterologists to prevent progression to cancer. Those with known Barrett's Esophagus should undergo endoscopic evaluation once a year.
Screening and biopsy can be easily done with in-office transnasal esophagoscopy.