Worried about Barrett's Esophagus?
Have you been diagnosed with Barrett's Esophagus and are worried about getting cancer?
To summarise what I'm about to say:
1. Your risk of getting esophageal cancer is still relatively low with a Barrett's diagnosis.
2. Anxiety about cancer can make your GERD worse and even weaken your immune system, making cancer more likely.
3. Don't let your disease or mortality be the focus of your life. We are all going to die. Live in the now. 4. People have been cured of Barrett's. Your body can heal itself if you don't get in the way.
5. Stomach acid inhibiting medication may NOT help prevent esophageal cancer.
Below are some stats about how likely Barrett's Esophagus will lead to esophageal cancer, which is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Please note that the following stats should not be reason for alarm. The average american has about a 1 in 3 chance of getting some type of cancer in their lifetime, which is over 5 times higher than the annual risk of a person getting esophageal cancer who has been diagnosed with high-grade dysplasia Barrett's Esophagus.
But if these statistics don't ease your anxiety, please understand that this fear, anxiety, or stress can have a negative impact on your health, and may even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anxiety and chronic stress can lead to acid reflux as well as reduced immune function, increasing your likelihood of developing life threatening cancer.
Now, am I making you even more worried (are you worried that you're worrying)? There are a lot of good tips out there about how to deal with the fear of cancer. Here are some- https://www.cancer.net/survivorship/life-after-cancer/coping-with-fear-recurrence
Did you know that we all have cancer cells in our body? A healthy immune system is continually dealing with them so that they don't get out of control. Certain foods have been shown to help our body fight cancer, and others have been shown to promote cancer growth.
"Estimates of the annual cancer incidence in patients with Barrett's Esophagus have ranged from 0.1 to almost 3.0 percent, with more recent studies suggesting rates closer to 0.1 to 0.4 percent per year. Although the risk of developing esophageal cancer is increased at least 30-fold above that of the general population, the absolute risk of developing cancer for a patient with nondysplastic Barrett's esophagus is low" - source: https://www.uptodate.com/…/barretts-esophagus-surveillance-…
"The annual risk of esophageal cancer is approximately 0.25% for patients without dysplasia and 6% for patients with high-grade dysplasia." - source https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23942681
Is an increased risk, even a small one, worth changing your lifestyle and diet for the better? Yes! Did you know that some people have cured their Barrett's through lifestyle changes? Here's one guy who did - https://youtu.be/-1kBseLDRp4 Here are some sources backing up the "Strawberry Cure." "Eating freeze-dried strawberries may help prevent esophageal cancer" - https://www.webmd.com/…/strawberries-may-help-prevent-esoph…
"[The study] showed that after consuming strawberries for 6 months, 29 of 36 participants with esophageal dysplastic lesions experienced a decrease in histologic grade" - https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/740515
Should you spend every minute of your life trying to cure yourself of Barrett's? I recommend reserving a part of each day to just live life. We are all going to die someday. What are you living for?
Did you know that there is not very much evidence showing that your acid reducing medication reduces your chance for developing cancer? A meta-analysis in 2017 concluded that "no dysplasia- or cancer-protective effects of PPIs usage in patients with Barrett's Esophagus were identified..." In other words, "Proton Pump Inhibitors [may] Not Reduce the Risk of Esophageal Adenocarcinoma in Patients with Barrett’s Esophagus" - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5224998/
Now maybe PPIs in your case are the best that you can do. And maybe they will help prevent esophageal cancer for you. In my case, I was open to other routes of management and treatment because I still had unpleasant symptoms with my PPI and I believed that lifestyle and diet would do a better job at cancer prevention and reflux reduction. May you find recovery soon.