If you have Barrett’s Esophagus, part of the lining on the esophagus near where it joins the stomach has changed. This is caused by the acid reflux that occurs with GERD (gasteroesophageal reflux disease). The change that occurs in the lining is not cancer, but can lead to cancer later on if medication for acid suppression is not taken.

When you have GERD, the stomach acid is backing up into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that carries the food and liquid we consume from our mouths to the stomach. Acids in the stomach help break down and digest food. Normally, the sphincter muscle keeps the stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus. If this muscle is weak, GERD may occur.

The stomach is protected from its own acid by a special lining. Stomach acid normally stays out of the esophagus, so it does not need the same acid resistant lining. However, if the acid backs up during GERD, it will cause damage to the esophagus. To protect itself, the esophagus may develop a more acid resistant lining, which is called Barrett’s Esophagus. This change in lining is not normal, and if over time continues to change, it may be more likely to become cancer in the future.

GERD symptoms include:

  • Heartburn
  • Sour tasting fluid backing up into your mouth
  • Frequent burping or belching
  • Symptoms that are worse after you eat, bend over, or lie down
  • Coughing repeatedly to clear your throat
  • Hoarseness