What Is the Significance of Intestinal Metaplasia?

A diagnosis of intestinal metaplasia of the gastric mucosa or gastric cardia is significant because it is a precancerous lesion, which increases the risk of gastric cancer, states PubMed Central. Intestinal metaplasia occurs when goblet cells, which normally line the intestines, are found in another area of the body, such as the esophagus.

Intestinal metaplasia of the esophagus is referred to as Barrett's esophagus, according to the American Cancer Society. Barrett's esophagus is caused by chronic reflux when the contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus. This is typical of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. This damages the lining of the esophagus and normally takes years to happen. While most people who develop Barrett's esophagus do not develop cancer, it does increase an individual's risk of esophageal cancer.

A person who has Barrett's esophagus sometimes develops cells that are more abnormal, according to American Cancer Society. This is referred to as dysplasia, which is a precancerous condition but treatable. Cells that show dysplasia are not able to metastasize or spread to other areas of the body. Typically, a person who has Barrett's esophagus with cells that show dysplasia experiences a great deal of acid reflux. Most often, this requires additional testing and follow-up biopsies in six months to one year.