About Gallbladder Cancer

When cells of a particular organ have a genetic mutation (abnormal or defective change), they begin to grow and multiply uncontrollably. This gives rise to a mass of cells called a tumour, and the condition is called cancer. Gallbladder cancer develops in the cells of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ present below the liver. These cancers are rare, and most of them are adenocarcinomas (cancer that begins in the gland-like cells present on the organ’s surface. Bladder cancer occurs more commonly in women and in people over 75 years.

Symptoms

Gallbladder cancer does not cause any symptoms in its early stages, and if it does, they are usually difficult to identify. For this reason, most people are diagnosed with this cancer in its advanced stages.

 

Some symptoms that may occur in gallbladder cancer are:

  • Yellowish tinge in the skin and the white of the eyes, darker urine, pale stools (jaundice)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Increased temperature
  • A lump in the upper abdominal region
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sharp pain in the abdomen
  • Swollen abdomen irrespective of eating food

 

If you experience any of these symptoms often or persistently, it is recommended that you visit your doctor immediately.

Diagnosis

Since gallbladder cancer is rare, active screening is not done for it. If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of gallbladder cancer, contact your doctor. After evaluating your symptoms and risk factors, they may refer you to a specialist. 

 

Some tests that the specialist may recommend are:

  • Routine blood tests


  • Liver function tests (LFTs)


  • Ultrasound scan

To determine the presence of a tumour in your gallbladder

 

  • ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio Pancreatography)

Helps your doctor check for any abnormal growth in the gallbladder and collect a tissue sample if required.

 

  • Imaging tests like CT scan and an MRI

To determine the spread of cancer to nearby and far away organs.

 

  • Biopsy or fine-needle aspiration

To collect a sample from the suspected tumour and send it to a laboratory for confirmation of cancer.

 

Getting all your test results can take a couple of weeks. Speak with your doctor or healthcare team about any concerns you may have during this period.

Treatment

The three primary gallbladder cancer treatment options include– surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Surgery is the main treatment for gallbladder cancers and aims to cure your cancer. Some people may require chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. 

 

Gallbladder cancer treatment depends upon the stage and extent of cancer. In stages 1 and 2, gallbladder cancers are treated by surgery. Some stage 2 cancers may require chemotherapy. Advanced surgical options used to treat stage 3 cancer prolong gallbladder cancer life expectancy.

Curing stage 4 gallbladder cancer is not an option. Treatment for this stage includes surgery followed by chemotherapy to improve symptoms and prolong life.

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