How do you diagnose Barrett's esophagus?


Quick Answer

Barrett’s esophagus is diagnosed with an endoscopy, explains Mayo Clinic. This procedure involves the insertion of a tube with a camera into the throat of the patient. The camera passes through the esophagus, and the doctor examines the lining for changes in color and texture.

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Full Answer

Normal tissue of the esophagus is pale and smooth, while Barrett’s esophagus results in red, velvety tissue, according to Mayo Clinic. When Barrett’s esophagus is seen on endoscopy, the doctor removes a piece of the suspicious tissue and sends it for biopsy. A pathologist looks at the tissue under a microscope and classifies it based on the degree of dysplasia.

The classification of no dysplasia means that the cells in the sample do not exhibit pre-cancerous features, notes Mayo Clinic. Small signs of precancerous changes indicate the presence of low-grade dysplasia. High-grade dysplasia occurs when the biopsy cells contain a high degree of changes and signifies the last step before the cells change to cancer.

The exact cause of Barrett’s esophagus is unknown, and most patients have long-standing gastroesophageal reflux disease, explains Mayo Clinic. GERD occurs when the contents of the stomach flow back into the esophagus and irritate the lining. The esophagus heals, and the cells of the lining change to cells that are present in Barrett’s esophagus.

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