The gallbladder is a small organ that stores liver fluids, which aid in digestion. Gallbladder cancer is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the gallbladder. These cancerous cells grow and divide quickly and spread into the surrounding tissues and other parts of the abdomen.
The most common type of gallbladder cancer is adenocarcinoma, which begins in the glandular cells. However, most gallbladder cancers are diagnosed in the late stages and have a low recovery rate. Also, the position of the gallbladder makes it easier for gallbladder cancer to grow without being detected.
What are the symptoms associated with gallbladder cancer?
Gallbladder cancer doesn’t cause visible discomfort or symptoms in its early stages. But as cancer metastasizes in the surrounding tissues, various symptoms occur simultaneously. These symptoms can easily be mistaken for other conditions, which is why you should pay close attention to the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal bloating
- Lump in abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sudden weight loss
- Dark urine
What are the risk factors of gallbladder cancer?
While the exact cause of gallbladder cancer is unknown, other factors can increase the risk of developing it. Factors that are associated with the development of gallbladder cancer are:
- Gender as gallbladder cancer affects more women than men.
- Ageing as people over 50 are more to abdominal problems and even cancer.
- Chronic cholecystitis in which the gallbladder walls become calcified and turn malignant.
- History of polyps, chronic inflammation and infection in the gallbladder can increase the risk of cancer.
- History of gallbladder disorders as gallbladder cancer is most common in people who have gallstones.
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis causes infection in the bile ducts and increases the risk of gallbladder cancer.
Gallbladder cancer is harder to detect due to the position of the gallbladder. It makes it easier for gallbladder cancer to grow and spread without being detected. Hence, our doctors will perform a detailed physical exam and assess the patient’s susceptibility to gallbladder cancer. They will also recommend various screening and diagnostic tests to determine the cancer extent and stage. These tests can include:
- Blood test to see changes in liver function and find the cause of the symptoms.
- Imaging tests, such as ultrasound or CT scan to check the abdominal area for abnormal formations in the gallbladder.
- Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography or PTC to find tumours that are blocking the bile duct or liver.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography or ERCP to check for blocked bile ducts with an endoscope.
- Biopsy to remove a tissue sample from the affected area and test it for cancer cells.
Treatment for gallbladder cancer depends on various factors, such as cancer size, stage and position. Based on these factors and the patient’s preference, our doctors plan the most-effective treatment option for gallbladder cancer. These can include:
Surgery is the most viable option to treat gallbladder cancer in which our surgeons remove the tumour along with surrounding tissues. They will perform a cholecystectomy to remove entire cancer along with the gallbladder, surrounding tissues and nearby lymph nodes. The operation can also be performed with a laparoscope which requires tiny incisions and faster recovery.
In chemotherapy, our doctors will administer anticancer drugs to stop or shrink the tumour. Depending on the stage of cancer, these drugs can be given through a vein or orally.
Our surgeon will use high energy beams to damage or destroy the DNA of cancer cells. It can be used after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells or before surgery to shrink the tumour.