Gall bladder Cancer

Gallbladder Cancer

The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ situated below the liver on the right side of the abdomen. It stores bile, a dark green to yellowish-brown fluid, secreted by the liver. The bile duct carries bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine where it helps in the digestion of fat.

Gallbladder cancer is a rare disease that occurs when healthy cells acquire changes (mutations in their DNA) that make them divide uncontrollably and form a tumour. Cancer usually arises in the inner layers of the gallbladder and migrates to the nearby healthy tissues.

Stages of Gallbladder Cancer

  • Stage I: Cancerous cells are confined to inner layers
  • Stage II: Tumour has invaded to the outer layers
  • Stage III: Cancer has spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes
  • Stage IV: Cancer has begun to spread to the distant organs of the body

Symptoms

Early stages of gallbladder cancer are often asymptomatic. Signs and symptoms at advanced stages include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Nausea
  • Jaundice
  • Weight loss
  • Dark urine
  • Itchy skin

Risk Factors

The various risk factors include:

  • Advanced age
  • Female gender
  • History of gallstones
  • Bile duct problems
  • Gallbladder polyps
  • Certain infections
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Being of Native American or Mexican heritage

Diagnosis

Your doctor will assess your symptoms and perform a physical exam. The following diagnostic tests or procedures may be ordered:

  • Liver Function Test: Determines the health of your liver, gallbladder and bile ducts.
  • Imaging Tests: Images of your gallbladder are obtained by performing CT scan, MRI, Ultrasound, etc.
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiography(ERCP): An endoscope is inserted into your mouth and advanced towards the stomach and duodenum (first part of your small intestine). A dye is injected and X-ray images are taken to study the stage of gallbladder cancer.
  • Biopsy: A small piece of suspected tissue is obtained and observed under the microscope for the presence of cancerous cells.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the stage of your cancer. Early-stage cancer can be cured by removal of the gallbladder (Cholecystectomy) and nearby tissue. Advanced stages may involve treatment options including:

  • Chemotherapy: The use of drugs to treat cancer in the form of pills or intravenous injections.
  • Radiation therapy: High energy particles or waves such as X-rays and gamma rays are used to kill or damage the cancerous cells.

Treatment may also include:

  • Relieving Blocked Bile Duct: Your doctor places a hollow metal tube (stent) to hold it open.
  • Clinical trials: You may participate in studies that experiment on new procedures or medicines to treat gallbladder cancer.

Prevention

You may not be able to prevent gallbladder cancer but staying active and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of developing it.

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