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What is President Duterte’s Barrett’s Esophagus condition?

The President just announced that his Barrett’s Esophagus condition is progressing. What is it, and how serious is it?

What is Barrett’s Esophagus?

Barrett’s Esophagus is a condition that is usually brought about by damage in the lining of our esophagus caused by acid reflux.

Photo courtesy of American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Because of this damage, the lining becomes thick and red. There’s another valve in between the esophagus and the stomach called the lower esophageal sphincter. When it becomes damaged, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) happens. GERD triggers a change in this area, which becomes Barrett’s esophagus. 

Although there’s a risk of developing cancer from Barrett’s, it’s tiny, and can be seen early with regular checkups. If precancerous cells are detected, they can be treated ASAP.

Signs and symptoms    

If you’ve had GERD for a long time, these signs and symptoms may be felt:

  • Frequent heartburn 
  • Regurgitation of what you’ve eaten
  • Difficulty of swallowing food
  • Chest pain, rarely


Except for being afflicted with GERD, largely unknown. 

Who can get it?

Risk factors include

  • Family history of it
  • Male
  • Caucasian/white
  • More common over age 50
  • Chronic heartburn and reflux/
  • Current or past smoking.


Medicines for GERD is the usual treatment for Barrett’s Esophagus, which can be omeprazole  (Prilosec, Zegerid), lansoprazole  (Prevacid), pantoprazole  (Protonix), rabeprazole  (AcipHex), esomeprazole  (Nexium), dexlansoprazole link (Dexilant).

Can Barrett’s Esophagus go away?

It will depend on how severe the condition is, but Barrett’s Esophagus is usually long-lasting (permanent). But it may go away in some people. It’s important to note that not everyone who has Barrett’s will develop cancer. The risk is low—less than one percent. 

In one 10-year study of 409 people with Barrett’s, only four people died of cancer (that’s one per cent). Moreover, up to 95 per cent of patients with esophageal cancer did not have a previous diagnosis of Barrett’s.

So why does the President say he is nearing cancer?

There are five stages: 

  • non-dysplastic (no cancerous tissue present)
  • low-grade dysplasia (minor cell changes found)
  • high-grade dysplasia (extensive cell changes found, but not yet cancer)
  • noninvasive cancer.
  • invasive cancer.

Other notable people with Barrett’s Esophagus 

Morrissey, musician 

UK Home Secretary David Blunkett, politician 

Lizzie Cundy, celebrity  

Eddie Money, musician 

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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