Heartburn is a common complaint – likely due to our society as a whole becoming more obese. About 10% of individuals in the United States, or more than twenty million Americans, encounter extreme or frequent symptoms. Of those who have recurrent heartburn for 5 years or more, 10-20% develop Barrett’s esophagus. Out of this set, roughly 5-10% will continue to develop cancer. Generally, individuals with Barrett’s esophagus possess a 30- to 125-fold higher risk of developing adenocarcinoma as opposed to general population. Each individual who may have GERD will not develop Barrett’s esophagus. Scientific studies so far are unable to predict which individuals who have heartburn will manifest into Barrett’s esophagus. Nevertheless there is no relationship between the severity of heartburn and the progression of Barrett’s esophagus. Some individuals with Barrett’s esophagus may have no heartburn signs and symptoms whatsoever. Even so, indicators that should not be overlooked include:

  • Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Frequent and long-standing heartburn
  • Vomiting blood
  • Unintentional weight loss because eating is painful
  • Burning pain under the breast bone