Find out about the symptoms of Barrett’s oesophagus and the risk of oesophageal cancer.
Barrett’s oesophagus means that some cells in the lining of your food pipe have started to change. In a small number of people these cells may develop into oesophageal cancer over a long period of time.
The cells lining the food pipe are normally flat. They’re called squamous cells. In Barrett's oesophagus they change into a type more like the columnar (column shaped) cells in the lining of the small and large bowel.
The cells may grow abnormally. Doctors call this dysplasia. The dysplasia can be low grade or high grade. The grade means how abnormal the cells look under a microscope. The more abnormal they look, the higher the grade.
Risk of oesophageal cancer
Barrett's oesophagus can increase your risk of cancer of the oesophagus.
Between 1 and 5 people in every 100 with Barrett's oesophagus (1 to 5%) go on to develop oesophageal cancer.
Checking your oesophagus
You’ll need to see your doctor regularly if you have Barrett's oesophagus. You’ll also have regular tests called endoscopies to look inside your food pipe. This checks whether the abnormal cells are developing and can also pick up oesophageal cancer early when treatment is usually successful.