Barrett's esophagus occurs when cells that line the lower esophagus are replaced by different cells. This process usually occurs as a result of repetitive damage to the inside of the esophagus caused by longstanding gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
One potential complication of Barrett's esophagus is that abnormal esophageal lining can develop precancerous changes. The early changes may progress to advanced precancerous changes, and finally to frank esophageal cancer. If undetected, this cancer can spread and invade surrounding tissues.
Monitoring can detect curable, precancerous changes (dysplasia) in the esophagus. These changes may indicate that the person has an increased risk of cancer. Precancerous changes in Barrett’s esophagus usually are treated with endoscopic procedures.
Radiofrequency ablation is an endoscopic procedure that uses energy (microwaves) to destroy the Barrett’s cells. Research has shown this treatment can prevent high-grade dysplasia from progressing to cancer and to prevent low-grade dysplasia from developing more advanced features.