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Barrett’s Esophagus

What Is Barrett’s Esophagus?

The esophagus is a muscular tube that carries food, liquids and saliva from your mouth to your stomach. In Barrett’s esophagus, also called Barrett’s syndrome or Barrett’s disease, the lining of the esophagus changes into tissue that is similar to the tissue of the small intestine.

The cause of Barrett’s esophagus isn’t completely known, but it is suspected that long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) contributes to the changes in the lining of the esophagus. Only a small number of people with GERD develop Barrett’s esophagus, and individuals who don’t have GERD can still get the disease.

Individuals with Barrett’s esophagus are at a higher risk of developing esophageal cancer. Your gastroenterologist will closely monitor you for precancerous cells. Early detection is key to treating and preventing esophageal cancer.

Types of Dysplasia

The first step in diagnosing Barrett’s esophagus is to identify abnormal tissue in the esophagus and look for precancerous cells, called dysplasia, to determine your risk of esophageal cancer.

There are three types of dysplasia in Barrett’s esophagus:

  • No dysplasia – Barrett’s esophagus is present, but no precancerous cells were found. Individuals with this diagnosis have no risk of esophageal cancer.

  • Low dysplasia – Barrett’s esophagus is present and a low number of slightly abnormal cells were found. Individuals have a low risk of cancer.

  • High-grade dysplasia – Barrett’s esophagus is present and a high number of very abnormal cells were found. Individuals have a high risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Your gastroenterologist will work closely with you to discuss your results and use the diagnosis to create a plan that helps treat GERD, manage symptoms and monitor your cancer risk.


Barrett’s esophagus often doesn’t have any symptoms, but symptoms of GERD, heartburn and acid reflux include:

  • Burning or pain in the chest

  • Pain that increases after meals or lying down

View all Barrett’s esophagus symptoms

Delivering the Latest Advances in Care

The Temple Digestive Disease Center delivers a team-centered, state-of-the-art approach to a wide range of digestive diseases and conditions, including Barrett’s esophagus. Our gastroenterologists are highly trained and offer the latest advances in care, including minimally invasive procedures and proven surgical techniques. At the Digestive Disease Center, our patients receive:

  • Expert care – Our board-certified gastroenterologists see more than 13,000 patients every year, offering unmatched insight and experience into helping you manage your unique digestive disorder.

  • Latest advances in care – Temple gastroenterologists are the leaders in minimally invasive surgery and are often the first to offer the newest standards of care for a wide range of digestive disorders.

  • State-of-the-art facilities – We offer advanced technology to diagnose, treat and manage complex digestive disorders.

  • Clinical trials – Part of a leading academic center, Temple physicians participate in the latest research and clinical trials for digestive disorders, including access and opportunity to participate in select trials.

  • Convenient location – The Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program offers outstanding care at convenient locations across Greater Philadelphia.

We are proud to be the proven leader in digestive disorders and deliver innovative care in diagnosing, treating and managing your condition so that you can live a full, healthy and active life.

When to Seek a Specialist

If you have recurrent heartburn, acid reflux or have been diagnosed with GERD, talk to your gastroenterologist about screening for Barrett’s esophagus. A gastroenterologist will work closely with you to identify your risk.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience:

  • Chest pain

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Vomiting blood

  • Passing black, tarry and bloody stools

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of Barrett's esophagus, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat Barrett's esophagus.