WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
- Barrett esophagus, or BE, is also called columnar-lined esophagus. This is a type of precancerous disease that affects and damages the esophagus (food pipe). Precancerous means that it may lead to cancer (tumor). With Barrett esophagus, normal cells lining the esophagus may have had an injury that caused inflammation (swelling) and damage. When the damaged areas heal, cells may undergo dysplasia. Dysplasia is where abnormal cells grow and divide without order, and replace the normal cells. This process may later lead to esophagus cancer. A Barrett esophagus may either have a long or short segment (piece) depending on the length of abnormal tissues.
- The most common symptom is heartburn, which is a burning pain in the chest. This usually occurs after meals and may spread to your neck, jaw, or shoulder. You may also have pain or trouble while swallowing, frequent choking or coughing, vomiting (throwing up), or weight loss. Barrett esophagus is diagnosed by endoscopy and biopsy, and is graded based on the amount of dysplasia that is present. Treatment may include medicines and surgery. You may also need to make diet and lifestyle changes to treat Barrett esophagus. With treatment, such as medicine and surgery, your symptoms may be relieved, and cancer of the esophagus prevented.
Take your medicine as directed.
Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:
For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.
Your caregiver may need to repeat your endoscopy and biopsy. These tests help look for early signs of cancer of the esophagus. Ask your caregiver when you will need another endoscopy.
You may not be able to eat solid foods for a period of time. You may be allowed to drink water, broth, apple juice, or lemon-lime soda pop. You may also suck on ice chips or eat gelatin. As you improve, you may be given soft foods to eat or thickened liquids to drink. You may be placed on a full diet as your swallowing gets better. A caregiver, called a dietitian, may talk to you about your feeding and nutrition. If you continue to have trouble swallowing, a swallowing therapist may teach you a safer way to swallow. The swallowing therapist will also help you learn which foods and liquids are safe to eat and drink.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Talk to your caregiver about your weight to learn if you weigh too little or too much. If you are overweight, weight loss may help relieve symptoms of Barrett esophagus.
- Avoid tobacco and alcohol: Cigarette and tobacco smoking, and drinking alcohol weaken the lower esophageal sphincter and cause acid reflux.
- Take anti-reflux medicines: These medicines may decrease the acid in the esophagus and stomach and stop heartburn. Some antacids may be bought over-the-counter in a pharmacy or grocery store. Check with your caregiver before trying any of these medicines.
CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:
- Your symptoms are getting worse.
- You have questions or concerns about Barrett esophagus, your care, or medicine.
SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:
- You feel very full and cannot burp or vomit (throw up).
- You have severe chest pain and trouble breathing all of a sudden.
- Your bowel movements are black, bloody, or tarry-looking.
- Your vomit looks like coffee grounds or has blood in it.
- Your symptoms do not improve with treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.