The esophagus is located between the pharynx and the stomach. It is a tube of about 25 centimeters that allows the passage of food through muscle contractions.
The esophagus is a tubular organ that connects the pharynx to the stomach and has the function of allowing the passage of food or drink. The stomach is an organ between the esophagus and the duodenum, which has the main role of digesting food through the action of gastric juice.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when there is incompetence of the gastroesophageal sphincter, a muscular ring that regulates the passage of food from the esophagus to the stomach. Its function is to open when the bolus is being swallowed and to close when the food is already in the stomach region. This prevents food from refluxing into the esophagus, along with hydrochloric acid and gastric enzymes that participate in the digestion process. When this structure is not working, it causes a chronic chemical burn process that, over time, causes changes in the esophageal lining epithelium, which can turn into cancer.
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition caused by prolonged damage to the esophageal mucosa by acid reflux of stomach contents. The epithelial tissue that lines the stomach is suitable for supporting a low pH, a fundamental condition for the digestion process that takes place there. However, the mucosal lining epithelium of the esophagus does not.
When the patient is a chronic carrier of gastroesophageal reflux disease and is not treated properly, a chemical burn develops in the transition portion between the esophagus and the stomach. In these cases, the esophageal tissue, unprepared for this, begins a process of transformation. It loses its scaly characteristics and gains mucosal properties to try to fit in, a process known as metaplasia that characterizes Barrett’s esophagus histologically. And the risk lies there: chronic inflammation induces so many changes that a malignant cell can originate and start the growth of a cancer in the esophagus.
It is important to clarify that the patient diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus does not have cancer. He just has a lesion that increases his chances of developing the disease if inflammation persists. This condition deserves specialized and constant medical follow-up. Clinical treatment is of paramount importance and aims to vehemently combat reflux with clinical and pharmacological measures.