Endoscopic screening and surveillance for Barrett's esophagus--clinical implications.
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There is now a clear causal relationship between symptomatic gastroesophageal reflux and esophageal adenocarcinoma (Lagergren et al, 1999). The risk factor is now identified as Barrett's metaplasia (Solaymani et al, 2004). Chronic reflux results in Barrett's metaplastic change, and the route to carcinoma is a stepwise progression, through dysplasia to invasive carcinoma (Jankowski et al, 2000). Earlier-stage disease is found in patients undergoing surveillance and is the major predictor of survival following surgery (Fountoulakis et al, 2004). Screening and surveillance by endoscopic biopsy regimen has profound implications for the allocation of healthcare resources and the provision of clinical services. Screening a high-risk group such as men with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) will result in the detection of more patients with Barrett's esophagus, many of whom are asymptomatic. Once detected, questions remain as to surveillance intervals and the current methodology for surveillance. There are profound challenges with the accurate endoscopic and pathologic detection and categorization of Barrett's metaplasia, dysplasia , and, indeed, cancer. New endoscopic detection methods are being investigated to improve the diagnosis and definition of the premalignant phenotype. The detection of dysplasia requires increased surveillance and usually intervention either endoscopically or with surgery.