Barrett's esphagus and worsening GERD

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Date Joined Jul 2007
Total Posts : 11
   Posted 7/16/2007 6:35 PM (GMT -6)   
I am new to this site and I'm hoping to get some helpful feedback because I am feeling very concerned about my health and cancer risk in relation to Barrett's Esophagus and uncontrollable GERD. 
A little history:
I've always been in good health and physically fit so I was surprised to learn 10 years ago that I had hypothroidism and GERD following the birth of my youngest child.  At first, Tagamet controlled the acid but after a couple of years my symptoms got worse and the doc switched me to Prilosec and later to Nexium.  During this time, I attended law school as a single mom then took a stressful job in a law firm.  My GERD got worse and at times I would take 2 Nexium a day.  Three years ago I was also given Zelnorm for IBS (the type with constipation).  I took Zelnorm in addition to the other meds for GERD but discontinued Zelnorm after a couple of months.  My GERD has gotten worse over the years but frankly I think the super high level of distracting stress in my life (job and family related) over the past 10 years, together with my high-tolerance for pain, caused me to sort of ignore my pain and "tough it out" rather than agressively address the underlying causes of GERD.  Finally, after stressful conditions at my job got worse, and my eldest daughter attempted suicide in October, 2006, I made the decision to leave my job this March, 2007 and take a needed break before beginning to work on my own as a consultant with a more flexible schedule and less stress.  I was also determined to "heal" my stomach and esophagus and get off of Nexium by eating a healthy diet, increasing exercise and through acupuncture.
Just over 3 months have passed since I left my job.  Stress in my life is definately down.  I was able to reduce my Nexium to just 20 mg 1x per day.  Then, my husband and I took a trip to France and while we were there we both got sick with with an intestinal virus.  Although I got over the virus quickly, my GERD symptoms have been off the charts ever since.  I increased Nexium to 40mg 2x per day, Zantac 150 mg at night and Gaviscon.  Never before have I had such constant burning in my throat, ear canals, esophagus and stomach.  I reflux at night, during the day, even when I drink water!  I just turned 50.  A week ago an endoscopy revealed Barrett's esophagus and a colonoscopy revealed very large polyps (not the type normally associated with cancer, however).  I had a normal endoscopy just 3 years ago and was expecting, given my worsening GERD symptoms, that my esophagus would be irritated but I was shocked to learn I have Barrett's.  Although the doctor's say that the risk of cancer is overall "low", everything I read on the internet seems to indicate that there is a strong association between Barrett's and cancer.   I have seen an ENT and a GI specialist this past week.  They say that I have "failed" drug therapy and may need surgery.  I am scheduled for a barium swallow x-ray this Thursday to see if a hiatal hernia is present which would make me a surgery candidate, according to the GI specialist.  I really don't want to have surgery but I know that I have to find a way to reduce the reflux in order to prevent more damage to my esophagus.  I would really  like to find a way to heal more naturally and reduce my medications. 
I have made all recommended changes in my diet and lifestyle in the last few weeks and my symptoms have improved, but very little.  The reflux comes without warning -- my stomach feels like it churns after eating, becomes very sensitive and rejects food and sends it up the wrong way along with acid.  I am going to see a nutritionist.  I feel that the medicines (Nexium, mainly) maybe helping but at the same time are contributing to the problem by creating a rebound effect of acid and making it hard to digest food, agravating IBS symptoms.   
Any feedback would be appreciated.  I want some relief - and I don't want to get cancer of the esophagus. 

Veteran Member

Date Joined Sep 2005
Total Posts : 1744
   Posted 7/16/2007 8:52 PM (GMT -6)   
You certainly do have a lot on your plate right now. I don't have Barrett's--yet (that's what GI keeps saying), but I know I run the risk of it. My GERD symptoms have also gotten worse and worse over the years, and now it's almost as bad as when I was pregnant with my twin daughters. That is despite taking a double dose PPI and 300 mg zantac every night. GI had me back off the zantac--I don't think it was working anyway, but my stomach is upset all the time. And my endoscopy from a bout 5 weeks ago proves it (erosive gastritis and erosive esophagitis--which causes barrett's). I'm not yet 40, though, and I wonder if the acid keeps getting progressively worse what will life be like when I'm 50. My mother had severe reflux too. IT got to the point where she had to sleep sitting straight up and ended up with a massive upper GI bleed before they finally did a fundoplication. While she passed away shortly after the surgery (her death was not related to reflux or the surgery), others who have had the surgery have reported good things about it. I know it has improved significantly over the years. I also know that BArrett's is a major factor for deciding on surgery. I wasn't aware that a hiatal hernia was a factor too--My doctor told me I have a small one, but it's so small and insignificant I just laugh.

The way I look at it is that if PPI therapy stops working effectively for me, then surgery is probably the best option. And even knowing that the risk of cancer is low with barrett's, the fact that it is even slightly elevated by the barrett's bugs me. I would do the surgery, as long as I trusted the surgeon. I'm sure there are others on here, though, that have had the surgery and can share more information with you.

Current dx: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Suspected dx: UCTD/Early Lupus
Current Meds: Enbrel, Plaquenil, Aciphex, Ultracet, Zyrtec, Allavert-D, Zantac, Tylenol PM
Past Meds: Relafen, Vioxx, Mobic, Voltaren, Sulfasalazine, Entocort, Prednisone, Humira, Reglan

Veteran Member

Date Joined Dec 2006
Total Posts : 722
   Posted 7/17/2007 2:15 PM (GMT -6)   
elcamino, the risk of cancer is low with barett's?  I didn't know that...
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