Reflux testing and treatment
To help diagnose Barrett's esophagus, your physician will perform an upper endoscopy.
Approximately 10 to 15 percent of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) patients may progress to Barrett’s esophagus in their lifetime.1 Barrett’s esophagus is the primary risk factor for esophageal adenocarcinoma, a type of esophageal cancer.2-4
Barrett’s is more likely to occur in patients with certain risk factors, such as having frequent acid reflux symptoms, being obese, using tobacco, or having family history of Barrett’s or esophageal cancer.3,5 If you experience frequent GERD symptoms and have been regularly using medications to control heartburn for several years, speak to a gastroenterologist (GI) about screening for Barrett’s.
Barrett’s esophagus cannot be diagnosed by symptoms. Diagnosing Barrett’s is dependent on an upper endoscopy performed by a GI or surgeon.1
An endoscopy is a procedure performed under sedation that allows the physician to directly visualize esophageal tissue and identify any abnormal tissue. An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a small camera attached. During the procedure, the endoscope is guided down the throat to inspect the esophagus and capture pictures of the tissue.
Your physician will also perform a biopsy and collect a small tissue sample for further examination if abnormal tissue is visualized. This sample will be used to determine if there is Barrett's esophagus and if there is dysplasia (abnormal cell growth) present in the lining of your esophagus.
If Barrett's esophagus is identified, the tissue sample will be classified into one of the following:6
Normal, healthy esophagus
Esophagus damaged by prolonged acid exposure
Nondysplastic Barrett’s esophagus
Information and resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor. Always discuss diagnosis and treatment information including risks with your doctor. Keep in mind that all treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary.
Schlottmann F, Patti MG, Shaheen NJ. From Heartburn to Barrett's Esophagus, and Beyond. World journal of surgery. 2017;41(7):1698–1704.
De Jonge PJ, van Blankenstein M, Looman CW, Casparie MK, Meijer GA, Kuipers EJ. Risk of malignant progression in patients with Barrett’s oesophagus: a Dutch nationwide cohort study. Gut. 2010;59:1030–6.
Spechler S. et al. Barrett’s Esophagus. N Engl J Med 2014; 371:836–45.
Hvid-Jensen F, Pedersen L, Drewes AM, Sorensen HT, Funch-Jensen P. Incidence of adenocarcinoma among patients with Barrett’s esophagus. N Engl J Med. 2011;365(15):1375–83.
Evans JA et al. The role of endoscopy in Barrett’s esophagus and other premalignant conditions of the esophagus. Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. 2012;76(6):1087–1094.
Mayo Clinic - Barrett's Esophagus - Diagnosis and Treatment - mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/barretts-esophagus/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352846. Accessed November 11, 2021.