Permit me a space in your weekly health column to ask for information about cancer of the gallbladder. A female friend of mine died recently due to the condition.
May the soul of your friend have eternal rest. Regarding your question, Gallbladder cancer is a cancer that begins in the gallbladder which is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of the abdomen, just beneath the liver. The gallbladder stores bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver.Gallbladder cancer is not common.
- When gallbladder cancer is discovered at its earliest stages, the chance for a cure is very good. But most gallbladder cancers are discovered at a late stage, when the prognosis is often very poor.
- Gallbladder cancer is difficult to diagnose because 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
What are the symptoms?
Gallbladder cancer signs and symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain, particularly in the upper right portion of the abdomen.
- Abdominal bloating
- Fever and losing weight
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
What are the causes?
It’s not clear what causes gallbladder cancer. Gallbladder cancer forms when healthy gallbladder cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. These mutations cause cells to grow out of control and to continue living when other cells would normally die. The accumulating cells form a tumor that can grow beyond the gallbladder and spread to other areas of the body.
What are the risk factors?
- Gallbladder cancer is more common in women.
- Gallbladder cancer increases with age.
- Gallbladder cancer is most common in people who have had gallstones in the past.
- Other gallbladder conditions that can increase the risk of gallbladder cancer include gallbladder polyps and chronic gallbladder infection.
Gallbladder cancer can be diagnosed via:
- Blood tests to evaluate liver function may help a doctor determine what’s causing the signs and symptoms.
- Imaging tests that can create pictures of the gallbladder include ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Exploratory surgerymaybe recommended to look inside the abdomen for signs that gallbladder cancer has spread.
- In a procedure called laparoscopy, the surgeon makes a small incision in your abdomen and inserts a tiny camera. The camera allows the surgeon to examine organs surrounding your gallbladder for signs that the cancer has spread.
- Tests to examine the bile ductsmay be recommended to inject dye into the bile ducts. This is followed by an imaging test that records where the dye goes. These tests can show blockages in the bile ducts.
Treatment options are:
- The initial goal of treatment is to remove the gallbladder cancer, but when that isn’t possible, other therapies may help control the spread of the disease and keep you as comfortable as possible.
- Surgery to remove the gallbladder. Early gallbladder cancer that is confined to the gallbladder is treated with an operation to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy).
- Surgery to remove the gallbladder and a portion of the liver. Gallbladder cancer that extends beyond the gallbladder and into the liver is sometimes treated with surgery to remove the gallbladder, as well as portions of the liver and bile ducts that surround the gallbladder.
- Surgery can’t cure gallbladder cancer that has spread to other areas of the body. Instead, doctors use treatments that may relieve signs and symptoms of cancer and make you as comfortable as possible.Options may includeChemotherapy and Radiation therapy.
- Advanced gallbladder cancer can cause blockages in the bile ducts, causing further complications. Procedures to relieve blockages may help.