Heartburn, Barrett’s & Esophageal Cancer Prevention
Heartburn Can Lead to Barrett’s Esophagus and Esophageal Cancer
For many people, heartburn is simply accepted as a fact of life. It is controlled (often poorly) with over the counter medications. But severe and persistent heartburn is a sign that something is wrong with the gastrointestinal system. If you have symptoms of heartburn, Beverly Hills gastroenterologist Dr. Berookim can help:
- Identify the underlying cause
- Prescribe more effective medications to reduce flare-ups
- Offer advice on lifestyle changes that can improve symptoms
- Evaluate tissue changes in the esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus)
“Patients shouldn’t have to suffer from ongoing digestive problems. Most of these conditions can be effectively managed with the proper care. It’s also important to understand that heartburn can be a warning sign of a condition called GERD that causes serious damage to the lining of the esophagus. Over time, what started as a case of chronic indigestion can lead to a diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer. I want to see patients long before they get to that point.” — Dr. Berookim, MD, FACG
How Does Barrett’s Esophagus Develop?
The lining of the esophagus is made up of epithelial cells. These cells can be damaged and begin to mutate if they are exposed to acid from the stomach through chronic reflux. These tissue changes (dysplasia) are referred to as “Barrett’s Esophagus.” As the tissue changes continue, lesions and tumors can form. Five to ten percent of patients with Barrett’s develop esophageal cancer.
Who Is at Risk?
- Patients with GERD (even if they don’t have heartburn symptoms)
- Men (they are twice as likely as women to develop Barrett’s esophagus)
- Caucasian men (this group has the highest risk)
- Family history of Barrett’s or esophageal cancer
- Lifestyle factors such as obesity
How Is Barrett’s Esophagus Identified?
Dr. Berookim checks for this condition by looking at the lining of the esophagus. Not long ago, the only way to do this was with an upper endoscopy (EGD). This procedure involves inserting a narrow scope into the esophagus and using a light and camera on the end to check the tissue for signs of dangerous changes.
Today, a less invasive capsule endoscopy procedure can be done using the Eso Pill to perform an initial visual examination. This is a “lunchtime” procedure that only takes about 20 minutes and requires no sedation. Dr. Berookim has introduced this state-of-the-art device into his practice as one more way to ensure patients receive the highest quality of care.
“The Eso Pill is convenient and comfortable for patients. It offers an effective way to visualize the upper GI tract and see if there are any tissue changes that warrant further investigation. Whenever an advance in medical technology makes it easier to help people get the screening they need to prevent cancer, I make sure my patients have access.” — Dr. Berookim, MD, FACG
If there are signs of Barrett’s, an EGD can be done as a follow-up procedure to perform a biopsy. If Barrett’s is confirmed, patients may choose to monitor the tissue changes or proceed with treatment to limit the risk of cancer.
Early Intervention Can Prevent Esophageal Cancer
Esophageal cancer is the 7th leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Like many deadly cancers, this one kills because it is caught too late. Esophageal cancer can typically be prevented if abnormal tissue is removed before it becomes cancerous. Dr. Berookim uses radiofrequency ablation therapy (RFA) as the least invasive but highly effective preventive treatment.
During this outpatient procedure, an endoscope is equipped with an RFA device and inserted into the esophagus. The heat created by the radio waves kills the cells lining the esophagus. They are broken down by the body and replaced with normal, healthy tissue as the lining heals. More than 50 clinical studies have shown this treatment to be effective in 90% of patients. The procedure is performed using deep sedation and patients can usually return to work the next day.
Don’t Ignore Heartburn Symptoms
Double board-certified Gastroenterologist Dr. Berookim is committed to helping patients enjoy long, full lives without the discomfort of chronic heartburn or the risk of deadly esophageal cancer. Los Angeles and Beverly Hills patients should call 310.271.1122 or fill out our online Request an Appointment form today to schedule a consultation.Bottom of Form