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How is GERD Related to Esophageal Cancer?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, abbreviated as GERD, is a common condition that involves stomach acid frequently flowing up into the esophagus. GERD can also cause other related conditions, such as Barrett’s esophagus, which is a condition that results in healthy esophageal tissue to become damaged to the point where it more closely resembles tissue of the intestine.

More on Barrett’s Esophagus

oncology consultation Barrett’s esophagus is essentially a complication of GERD that occurs as GERD symptoms become progressively worse. Barrett’s esophagus is most likely to develop in individuals who either experience GERD beginning at a young age or those who have had a longer duration of its symptoms.

It is estimated that between 10-15% of patients with GERD will develop Barrett’s esophagus. Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Chronic heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea

Risk Factors

These two gastroenterological conditions each have a unique link to a type of esophageal cancer known as adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. Cases of this form of esophageal cancer are increasing in frequency, and they pose a heightened amount of risk to patients who:

  • Are caucasian
  • Have been diagnosed with GERD


The changes in the esophagus that occur for those with Barrett’s esophagus result in a type of tissue known as Barrett’s tissue. Within this new type of tissue, there is a possibility for the formation of dysplasia, which is a precancerous condition.

In order to diagnose dysplasia, your doctor will need to perform a biopsy of the Barrett’s tissue. This tissue is then examined to determine the category of dysplasia it qualifies as, which can consist of:

  • High-grade
  • Low-grade
  • Indefinite

Recommended Screenings

It is not common for patients with Barrett’s esophagus to develop esophageal cancer, but it is advised to receive regular endoscopies in order to keep your esophageal health in check.

The frequency of these endoscopies will depend on whether or not the individual has dysplasia, so it is best to discuss these factors with your physician when deciding on the best course of treatment.

Schedule an appointment at Northwest Medical Specialties at (253) 428-8700 for esophageal cancer screenings in the Puyallup, WA area.

HEALTH ALERT! For the safety of our patients and staff only patients will be allowed into our clinics and everyone MUST wear a mask. See additional information regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19).


November 16, 2020 Update

During these difficult times we are making every effort to keep our patients and staff safe from COVID 19, we appreciate your patience and understanding with the changes you may have seen within our practice.

We strive to protect our patients and staff as much as we possibly can from any exposure on our premises.  NWMS has implemented a system wide policy that does not allow anyone in the building that is not a patient and everyone must wear an NWMS provided mask over their mouth and nose during their time on our premises.  This is to protect our vulnerable patients from the unforeseen possibility of exposure to COVID 19 which can be transmitted through aerosol droplets.  Sadly, we have had patients that have died from the complications of COVID 19, which is both devastating and preventable.

We offer a virtual visit option for family, friends, and companions to participate in the care of our patients through Zoom.  Our staff will assist you with every step of the login process and invite you to participate in real time from your vehicle or designated safe space in our building. Please contact us at 253-428-8700 to set this up.

The following offices are temporarily closed:

  • Bonney Lake
  • Federal Way

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, please make sure to contact us via phone prior to your appointment. You may also contact us for any additional questions by calling our office at (253) 428-8700.

Here are a few additional resources as well:

World Health Organization

Centers for Disease Control