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Glossary of Medical Terms

The definitions below are intended to provide you with a general understanding of the terms. Refer to a medical professional for more detailed information and to address any questions you may have.

Ablation: Removal or destruction of abnormal tissue.

Barrett's esophagus: A precancerous condition of the lining of the esophagus caused by chronic acid reflux.

Dysplasia: Abnormal tissue cells that can develop into cancer.

Endoscopy: Diagnostic test in which a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end is swallowed by the patient to allow the physician to directly inspect the lining of the upper gastrointestinal tract.

Esophagectomy: The surgical removal of the esophagus that involves removing the patient's esophagus and top part of the stomach. A portion of the stomach is then pulled up into the chest and connected to the remaining portion of the esophagus. The patient then has a "new" esophagus.

Esophageal Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that arises from the lining of the esophagus and resembles cancers found in the stomach and intestinal tract.

Esophagus: Muscular tube that carries food, liquids and saliva from the mouth to the stomach through coordinated contractions of its muscular wall.

Gastroenterologist: Physician who specializes in diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and biliary system.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Also called acid reflux disease, it is the regurgitation of stomach contents into the esophagus. Almost everyone experiences reflux at some time. The most common symptom is heartburn, usually occurring after a meal. In some people, reflux is frequent or severe enough to cause more significant problems.

High-Grade Dysplasia: The most advanced stage of dysplasia with unusual changes in many of the cells and a very abnormal, distorted growth pattern. The cells are contained within the lining of the esophagus and have not spread to other areas. High-grade dysplasia indicates an increased risk of developing cancer of the esophagus. Not all people with high-grade dysplasia will develop cancer.

Intestinal Metaplasia: Another term for Barrett's esophagus. Intestinal metaplasia, also known as IM, is the least serious stage of Barrett's esophagus. The tissue in the esophagus has begun to change genetically and the tissue resembles the lining of the stomach rather than the normal lining of the esophagus.

Low-Grade Dysplasia: Unusual changes in the cells that do not involve most of the cells. The growth pattern of the cells is still normal. Less than 50% of the abnormal cells have begun to change in size, shape, or organization and may show an increase in their growth rate. The cells are contained within the lining of the esophagus and have not spread to other areas.

Malignancy: Cancerous cells that have the ability to spread, invade, and destroy tissue. These cells spread to other parts of the body.

Surveillance endoscopy: When a patient undergoes an upper endoscopy procedure on a regular basis. The frequency of the endoscopy is determined by the physician.

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