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In Barrett's esophagus the lining of the esophagus, the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach, abnormally changes after repeated exposure to stomach acid.

The condition may affect as many as 1 million American adults.

The remaining 95% will die of something else," Reid says.

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Guidelines suggest doing a test called an endoscopy with a biopsy every two to five years in people who have Barrett's esophagus or even persistent heartburn.

The endoscopy test involves inserting a lighted tube through the mouth into the esophagus.

A biopsy of the esophagus can be performed during the procedure.

The test should be repeated more frequently if precancerous cells are found.

But the debate over screening for cancer of the esophagus may be even more pitched because the cancer is so lethal and it's on the rise in the U. "If you get the cancer, you don't survive, by and large," says Peter J.

Kahrilas, MD, a gastroenterologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and a professor in the department of medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Indeed, the study found evidence that cancer was more likely in people who had Barrett's esophagus with precancerous cells, called dysplasia.

"I think that all patients with new GERD [acid reflux] symptoms should undergo endoscopy," says study researcher Peter Funch-Jensen, MD, a researcher in the department of clinical medicine at Aarhus University in Denmark, in an email.

It is most commonly diagnosed in men who are white, overweight, and over age 50.

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