What You Need to Know about Gallbladder Cancer
The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped sac-like organ that sits below the liver. It stores bile, a digestive fluid that helps the body break down fats.
Gallbladder cancer is a rare cancer that develops in the gallbladder. Gallbladder cancer forms when healthy gallbladder cells develop changes in their DNA. While it can occur at any age, it’s more commonly seen in people over 60 years old and those with certain risk factors such as obesity or chronic inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis).
Gallbladder cancer usually develops slowly and is difficult to detect early because it often does not cause symptoms until it has spread to other body parts. When gallbladder cancer is discovered at its earliest stages, the chance of curing is perfect. But unluckily most gallbladder cancers are discovered at a late stage as it often causes no specific signs or symptoms. Also, the relatively hidden nature of the gallbladder makes it easier for gallbladder cancer to grow without being detected.
Causes of gallbladder cancer:
Doctors don't know exactly what causes gallbladder cancer. There are risk factors that increase the odds of developing gallbladder cancer.
- Chronic inflammation from cholecystitis
- Gallbladder polyps
- Bile duct problems
- History of gallbladder cancer in your family.
- Overweight or obese individuals
- Individuals with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk for gallbladder cancer.
- Gallbladder cancer typically affects people at age over 65
- Women get gallbladder cancer up to four times more often than men.
Having these risk factors does not mean you will get cancer. It just means that your chances of getting it may be higher than anyone without taking the risk.
Symptoms of Gallbladder cancer:
Gallbladder cancer signs and symptoms may include:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Abdominal bloating
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- nausea and vomiting
- dark urine
- Weight loss.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor for a thorough examination and accurate diagnosis.
How is Gallbladder Cancer Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you may have gallbladder cancer, they will likely perform several tests and procedures to diagnose the disease. These may include blood tests, imaging scans (such as CT and MRI scans), and laparoscopic examination of the gallbladder for cancerous cells.
In some cases, a biopsy may also be performed to collect tissue samples from the gallbladder that are then tested for cancerous cells.
Additionally, your doctor may order additional tests such as an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) or a laparoscopy to assess the extent of the cancer and look for other tumors in the abdomen.
How is Gallbladder Cancer Treated?
The type of treatment you receive for gallbladder cancer will depend on the stage of the disease. Cancer staging tells you if cancer has spread outside of your gallbladder. It’s used by doctors to decide on the best treatment strategy and determine the outcome. The scale goes from 0 to 4 based on how far cancer has grown into the gallbladder wall and how far it’s spread.
Gallbladder cancer is usually treated with surgery to remove the cancerous tissue. This is generally done through a laparoscopic procedure, though depending on the extent of the cancer, open surgery may be required.
Stages I, II, and III
Gallbladder cancer treatment may involve a combination of radiation, chemotherapy, and/or surgery to remove the gallbladder and any other cancerous tissue.
Gallbladder cancer treatment may include targeted therapy, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery.
In some cases, additional treatments such as immunotherapy may also be recommended. It is essential to discuss all available treatment options with your healthcare team to determine the best treatment plan for you.
Tips to reduce the risk of gallbladder cancer:
Gallbladder cancer is a serious disease that can have serious health consequences if left untreated. Adopting a healthy lifestyle may help reduce your risk. Some tips for a healthy lifestyle may include:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Maintain a balanced diet and reduce fats and processed meats.
- Practice and manage stress levels through relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
- Individuals can take steps to reduce their risk of gallbladder cancer or seek prompt medical attention if they suspect they may have gallbladder cancer by understanding the risk factors and symptoms of the disease.
- Regular check-ups and monitoring of symptoms can also help in detecting the disease early and increasing the chances of successful treatment.