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Intestinal Metaplasia

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What is intestinal metaplasia (IM)?

IM is a condition that changes the cells that line your stomach or esophagus. The cells are changed into or replaced by cells that line your intestines. When IM happens in the esophagus, it is called Barrett esophagus. IM is a precancer lesion. This means it is not cancer yet, but it may develop into cancer over time. IM can be a sign that you are at a very high risk for gastric (stomach) or esophageal cancer. The type of cancer depends on where you have IM.

Digestive Tract

What causes or increases my risk for IM?

Bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) are thought to change food into chemicals that change the cells. An H. pylori infection does not always cause IM, but it increases the risk. The following are other factors that can increase your risk for IM:

What are the signs and symptoms of IM?

You may not have any signs or symptoms. You may develop certain signs or symptoms if you have H. pylori or GERD:

How is IM diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may find IM during tests for another condition. Based on your age and risk factors, your provider may recommend IM screening. This means checking for IM before you have any signs or symptoms. Tests may be used to check for IM, or for an H. pylori infection. Tell your provider about if you have any symptoms of IM, and how long you have had them. Tell him or her about any medical conditions you have or medicines you take. You may also need any of the following:

How is IM treated?

Treatment may be given for the cause of your IM, or for any symptoms you are having. Your healthcare provider may recommend other treatment than the following if you have Barrett esophagus.

What can I do to manage IM?

The following can help you prevent or manage symptoms. You may also help lower your risk for stomach or esophageal cancer with healthy lifestyle choices. Examples include eating healthy foods, exercising, and not smoking. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions about any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

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