January 28, 2013 8:00 am

Dr. Kris Gast ~ Ask the Pros

Posted in: Ask the Pros

Radiation Oncologist at Fort Smith Radiation OncologyQ: My dad died from stage four esophageal cancer a little over a year ago.  He had been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus.  My question is Barrett’s esophagus hereditary? Could having Barrett’s esophagus have caused his cancer?

A: Barrett’s esophagus is an abnormal change in the lining of the distal end of the esophagus (food tube). Because it appears at the end of the esophagus closest to the stomach, reflux is thought to be the cause.  However, Barrett’s is found in patients who may or may not have reflux symptoms. Unfortunately, no reliable way to determine which patients with Barrett’s esophagus will go on to develop cancer is available. Also, no data shows it could be hereditary.

The risk of developing esophageal cancer is highest in the United States in white males over the age of 50 with more than 5 years of symptoms which can include trouble swallowing, weight loss, and pain. Treatment for esophageal cancer can range from surgery, to radiation, to chemotherapy, to possibly all three.

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