If you experience acid reflux, heartburn or a feeling of food being “stuck” after swallowing, your physician may recommend that you be tested for Barrett’s esophagus, a serious condition that can lead to cancer. Testing is especially important if your family has a history of Barrett’s esophagus. A grant from the Klein Family Foundation provides financial assistance for testing to those who qualify.
About Barrett’s esophagus
Barrett’s esophagus is a change in the lining of the esophagus, the “tube” that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. This change is called intestinal metaplasia or Barrett’s esophagus and can lead to cancer. So, screening and monitoring is recommended.
Causes of Barrett’s esophagus are not clear, but it appears related to acid exposure in the esophagus. One risk factor for developing Barrett’s is long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Reflux exposes the esophagus to stomach acid. But only a small percentage of those with GERD develop Barrett’s.
Patients most at risk are older Caucasian males with longterm reflux. Obesity also may increase the risk of Barrett’s. Some patients have no symptoms. It is important to meet with your physician to discuss your symptoms and risk factors.
Diagnosing Barrett’s esophagus
Diagnosis is made through an upper endoscopy, which lets a gastroenterologist view your upper digestive system through a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera at the end, followed by a biopsy of the lining of the esophagus. This outpatient procedure takes less than 30 minutes.
If you are diagnosed, your physician will discuss your diagnosis and treatment plan. Acid-reducing medication is recommended, as well as monitoring, to ensure that Barrett’s esophagus does not develop into cancer. If Barrett’s does develop into cancer, your doctor may recommend an outpatient procedure called radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which uses radiofrequency waves to destroy damaged tissue.
Qualifying for the Klein Family Foundation grant
The Klein Family Foundation’s goal is to reduce cancer of the esophagus.
If you can’t afford the cost of testing because you have high-deductible insurance, are underinsured or you do not have insurance, contact the Bridgeport Hospital financial counselor at (203) 384-3988 to see if you qualify for financial assistance through the Klein Family Foundation grant.
The grant is in memory of John A. Klein, former president and chief executive officer of People’s United Bank and chair of Bridgeport Hospital’s board of directors, who lost a courageous battle with esophageal cancer in January 2008. For patients who qualify, the Klein Family Foundation grant provides financial assistance for testing and treatment for high-grade dysplasia (severe precancerous cell change) accompanying Barrett’s esophagus.