Information for the public

If you have Barrett's oesophagus

What is Barrett's oesophagus?

Barrett's oesophagus is a condition in which changes occur to the cells lining the lower part of the oesophagus. It is caused by long-term reflux, and one of the symptoms is heartburn (see Heartburn and reflux to find out more). Over time, the cells change because the acidic stomach contents damage the lining of the oesophagus, and although they are not cancerous, there is a small risk that they will become cancerous.

If you have Barrett's oesophagus (that has been confirmed by endoscopy and laboratory tests), your doctor may talk with you about having an endoscopy from time to time to monitor it. Your GP should be able to tell you more about what is involved. In addition, NICE has produced advice on Barrett's oesophagus (see Other NICE guidance for details).

Endoscopy to diagnose Barrett's oesophagus

You should not normally be offered an endoscopy to see if you have Barrett's oesophagus, but your doctor may discuss it with you if you have symptoms of GORD (short for gastro-oesophageal reflux disease), depending on factors such as:

  • your own preferences

  • if you've had the symptoms for a long time

  • if you've been getting the symptoms quite frequently

  • if you've previously had conditions that have affected your oesophagus

  • if you are a man

  • if you are older.

  • Information Standard