The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ located right below the liver. The organ secrets bile juice which is responsible for digestion. A cancer growth in this organ is rare and usually develops as cancer.
Types of Gallbladder Cancer
Based on the type of cell, gallbladder cancers are of the following types:
- Adenocarcinoma: This is the most common type of gallbladder cancer which starts in the inner lining of the gallbladder.
- Adenosquamous Carcinoma: This is a rare type which starts in the outer lining of the organ.
Early symptoms of gallbladder cancer are similar to gallbladder inflammation which may be confusing in the beginning. If the symptoms are prolonged, they should be brought to the physician’s attention immediately. The common symptoms are:
- Loss of appetite.
- Abrupt weight loss.
- Persistent pain in the right side of the abdomen.
- Swollen abdomen.
- Lump in the right side of the abdomen.
The exact cause of gallbladder cancer is not known. The possible causes, however, are:
- Gender: Women are more prone than men.
- Family history of gallstones or gallbladder cancer.
- Exposure to harmful chemicals.
- Impaired gallbladder.
- Hormone replacement therapy.
Gallbladder cancer is diagnosed by:
- Physical examination: The doctor will first examine you for jaundice, and any signs of lumps, fluid build-up or tenderness around the abdomen. If cancer is suspected, the doctor will recommend additional tests.
- Blood test: Gallbladder cancer is identified by levels of albumin, liver enzymes, and bilirubin in the liver. High levels indicate gallbladder cancer.
- Biomarkers test: Patients with gallbladder cancer have high levels of CEA and CA 19-9 in the blood. Hence, a test will be performed to check for these levels.
- Imaging tests: Various imaging tests such as CT scans, and MRIs will be performed to gauge the size, location, and stage of the tumour.
- Biopsy: The doctor will extract a small tissue from the area and examine for the presence of cancer cells.
The treatment strategy for gallbladder cancer depends on the stage and type of cancer, age, and overall health of the patient. Surgery is usually the mainstay of the treatment. It may be combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy for better outcomes.
- Surgery: Surgery is the mainstay of gallbladder cancer. The doctor will remove the tumour tissues along with surrounding healthy tissues and lymph nodes.
- Radiation therapy: High energy X-rays will be used to destroy cancer cells. These radiations may be administered before or after the surgery depending on the patient’s condition.
- Chemotherapy: High doses of anti-cancer drugs will be administered to destroy cancer cells. In some cases, chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy to remove cells from the body.