Barrett's esophagus

Diagnosis and Testing

How do I get tested or screened for Barrett's esophagus?

A diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus occurs when specific changes in tissue lining the esophagus (a muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach and is made of different layers) are found. To see this, doctors will perform a special test called an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy (a procedure where a doctor uses a long flexible tube with a camera called an endoscope to see the lining of the esophagus) and take several biopsies or samples of tissue. Typically this procedure is performed by a gastroenterologist, surgeon, or other trained healthcare professional. If you are interested in having an upper GI endoscopy speak with your healthcare provider about a referral to one of these specialists or you can locate a gastroenterologist in your area by using the Find a Gastroenterologist tool on the American College of Gastroenterology website.

References
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More Diagnosis and Testing Content

Are there other ways besides endoscopy my doctor can view the lining of my esophagus in Barrett's esophagus?

When should I get an endoscopy for Barrett's esophagus?

How will I get diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus?

What is dysplasia as it relates to Barrett's esophagus?

Are there other ways besides endoscopy my doctor can view the lining of my esophagus in Barrett's esophagus?

Other than upper gastrointestinal endoscopy there is another kind of endoscopy called capsule endoscopy that allows a physician to view the lining of your esophagus (a muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach and is made of different layers), when you have Barrett's esophagus. Capsule endoscopy involves swallowing a capsule with a camera, which transmits images to a device you wear on your belt. The capsule will pass naturally through your digestive tract and your doctor may view the images afterwards. Unfortunately, your doctor cannot take a biopsy or sample of the esophagus through this method, so there is no way to confirm a diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus. If you are interested in having a capsule endoscopy speak with your doctor or a gastroenterologist about the procedure. You can locate a gastroenterologist in your area by using the Find a Gastroenterologist tool on the American College of Gastroenterology website.

References
When should I get an endoscopy for Barrett's esophagus?

If you are experiencing ongoing symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which is the main risk factor for developing Barrett's esophagus, your doctor will most likely want to determine the cause of your ongoing GERD. GERD is a condition where acid from the stomach comes out into the esophagus (a muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach and is made of different layers). If the stomach acid comes out often over a long amount of time this is GERD. To determine the cause of a person's GERD, a doctor will schedule an upper endoscopy during which a doctor uses a long flexible camera to see the inside of your upper GI tract while you are under light sedation. Your doctor may also recommend testing for Barrett's espophagus based on your past medical history and if you have factors that increase your risk of having Barrett's esophagus like male sex, over age 50, or Caucasian (white) ethnicity. Endoscopy detects most (~80%) of cases of Barrett's esophagus. In some individuals, the anatomy of the esophagus where it meets the stomach may make the diagnoses more difficult to ascertain. Talk to your doctor about when using endoscopy to diagnose Barrett's esophagus may be right for you.

References
How will I get diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus?

In order to confirm a diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus, a special kind of doctor called a pathologist will study the tissue samples taken from the esophagus (a muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach and is made of different layers), during an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy (a procedure where a doctor uses a long flexible tube with a camera called an endoscope to see the lining of the esophagus). A pathologist is a doctor who examines tissues to diagnose diseases. The pathologist will determine if Barrett's cells are present in your sample. Barrett's esophagus can be hard to diagnose because it does not affect every cell in the lining of your esophagus, so your doctor will take biopsies or tissue samples from at least 8 different areas of the esophagus for the pathologist to examine. If you have further questions about the diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus using biopsy or tissue samples speak with your doctor.

References
What is dysplasia as it relates to Barrett's esophagus?

Dysplasia is a condition where cells have changes that look abnormal under a microscope. Some times dysplasia can lead to cancer. In Barrett's esophagus, tissue changes occur in the cells lining the esophagus (a muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach and is made of different layers), which can eventually lead to cancer. Your doctor and pathologists (doctor who examines tissues to diagnose diseases), will do a test called an upper endoscopy during which a doctor uses a long flexible camera to see the inside of your upper GI tract while you are under light sedation. They are looking for tissue changes when they examine your esophagus and look under a microscope at the biopsies. Talk to your doctor to learn more about tissue changes that occur in Barrett's esophagus.

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