The Ultimate Guideline to Gallbladder Cancer: All You Need To Know
Gallbladder cancer is a type of malignant tumor found in the gallbladder. It accounts for only 2% of all cancers, but it causes about 10% of deaths due to digestive tract tumors. It is a type of cancer that develops in the cells lining the inside of the bile ducts. Bile is a yellow fluid produced by the liver that helps break down fats in food. Cancerous tumors may develop in the gallbladder or along the bile ducts where they drain into the small intestine. Gallbladder cancer is often diagnosed at late stages due to a lack of symptoms. Let us, therefore, check out the various symptoms.
The primary risk factor for getting gallbladder cancer is age. People over 50 years old have a higher chance of developing GBC than younger adults. Other possible causes of GBC include obesity, chronic inflammation, diabetes, cirrhosis, smoking, certain medications, and genetic factors.
Quick Fact: In India, the incidence rates of GBC range between 0.8 – 1.9 per 100,000 people. However, in North America and Europe, the incidence rates of this disease are much lower at 0.02 – 0.06 per 100,000 people.
In what way does the gallbladder play a role in our bodies?
The gallbladder is located just below the liver. It is a small organ that stores bile, a fluid produced by the liver to help digest fats. Bile helps break down food and aids in digestion. When the gallbladder becomes inflamed, it produces excess amounts of bile. This causes the bile to flow out of the gallbladder and back into the intestines. If the bile flows back into the intestine, it may cause inflammation and pain.
Causes of gallbladder cancer
There are two types of gallbladder cancer: cholesterol gallstones and cholecystitis cancer. Cholesterol gallstones occur when stones build up in the gallbladder. These stones may become stuck in the sphincter muscle that separates the gallbladder from the duodenum. This causes inflammation of the lining of the gallbladder and eventually leads to ulcers and scarring of the wall.
As the scarring grows, the gallbladder becomes enlarged and filled with bile. Over time, the pressure caused by the bile builds up and creates a hard mass known as a gallstone. If left untreated, these gallstones cause chronic inflammation and lead to further scarring and thickening of the gallbladder’s wall.
Eventually, the gallbladder fills with scarred tissue and loses its ability to produce enough bile. This results in a buildup of bile in the intestine. When the bile backs up into the intestines, it can irritate the intestinal wall and cause inflammation.
Cholecystitis is the second type of gallbladder cancer. It occurs when there is infection or irritation of the gallbladder. Symptoms of cholecystitis include nausea, vomiting, fever, back pain, loss of appetite, and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes).
How To Diagnosis Gall Bladder Cancer?
Diagnosing gallbladder cancer is done using imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs. In addition, doctors will also take samples from the patient’s urine or stool, and perform biopsies to determine if cancer cells are present.
Prognosis: The prognosis for patients who have gallbladder cancer is poor. Most people die within 1 year after diagnosis.
Symptoms Of Gallbladder Cancer To Look Out For
- Abdominal pain: Abdominal pain is a symptom of gallbladder cancer. If you have any type of abdominal pain, you should consult your doctor immediately. Gallbladder cancer may cause severe pain in the abdomen and sometimes it may even lead to nausea, vomiting, fever, weight loss, fatigue, jaundice, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, heartburn, and bloating.
- Anemia: Anemia occurs when the body lacks enough red blood cells. A person suffering from anemia may feel tired, weak, short of breath, dizzy, pale, cold, and clammy. Anemia is caused due to poor iron intake or insufficient production of red blood cells.
- Bloating: Bloating is a condition where the stomach becomes swollen due to the accumulation of gas inside. People who experience bloating often complain about feeling bloated, full, gassy, uncomfortable, and heavy.
- Changes in bowel habits: Changes in bowel habits are a sign of gallbladder cancer, especially if they aren’t normal. Constipation, diarrhea, and frequent urination are some of the changes in bowel habits associated with gallbladder cancer.
- Chills: Chills are a symptom of gallbladder cancer. When you get chills, it means that your internal temperature rises. You might also notice that your skin feels warm and sweaty.
- Cough: Coughing is a symptom of gall bladder cancer. If you cough frequently, it could mean that you have a problem with your lungs. Other symptoms that go along with coughing include chest tightness, difficulty breathing, wheezing, hoarseness, and dry throat.
- Diarrhea: Diarrhea is a symptom of gall bladder cancer. If you have diarrhea, it means that your stool comes out in a watery liquid form. Your stool may also turn greenish yellow.
How to treat gallbladder cancer?
Treatment options depend on the stage of gallbladder cancer. If the disease is detected early, treatment may involve surgery alone. Surgery involves removing the gallbladder and any nearby organs affected by cancer. In some cases, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be recommended after surgery. If cancer has spread beyond the gallbladder, treatments may include the following:
- Surgery: Surgery is the best option for gallbladder cancer treatment. Surgery may not be possible due to the location of the tumor or if it is in a later stage. A surgeon will remove the gallbladder and any surrounding lymph nodes. After the surgery, the patient receives chemotherapy to shrink the remaining tumor and prevent it from spreading further.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the second-best option for gallbladder cancers. Chemotherapy drugs work by killing cancer cells. These drugs get into the bloodstream or are taken orally (by mouth). Sometimes, radiation therapy and chemotherapy combination is done. Radiation uses high doses of X-rays to kill cancer cells.
- Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy is the third-best option for treating gallbladder cancer. Targeted therapies are designed to target specific genes or molecules involved in the growth of cancer cells. Drugs that block these targets help stop cancer cells from dividing.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is the fourth-best option for treating cancer. The immune system helps fight cancer through immunotherapies. One type of immunotherapy is called adoptive T-cell transfer. The adoptive T-cell transfer involves removing white blood cells from a person who is healthy and then using chemicals to change them into special cells that attack cancer. Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy is another type of immunotherapy. A laboratory setting produces chimeric antigen receptor T-cells that are then given back to the patient.
- Biologic Therapy: Biologic therapy is the fifth-best option for treating Gallbladder Cancer. Biologics are medications produced in a lab that is similar to natural substances. Examples of biologics include monoclonal antibodies and interferon alpha. Monoclonal antibodies attach themselves to cancer cells and cause them to die. Interferon alpha stimulates the immune system to produce its natural killer cells.
- Stem Cell Transplantation: Stem cell transplantation is the sixth-best option for treating patients with gallbladder cancer. Stem cells are immature cells that have the potential to become many different types of mature cells. Scientists remove stem cells from the bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, or peripheral blood of a donor. Then they multiply the stem cells in the lab and return them to the patient through intravenous infusion.
- Other Options: Other options for gallbladder cancer treatments include photodynamic therapy, radiofrequency ablation, cryosurgery, and laser therapy. Photodynamic therapy works by giving a drug that makes cancer cells glow under certain wavelengths of light. Radiofrequency ablation destroys cancer cells by heating them until they burst. Cryosurgery freezes cancer cells causing them to die. Laser therapy uses intense beams of light to destroy cancer cells.
The stages of gallbladder cancer are as follows:
- Stage 1 – Gallstones: Gallstones are small stones that develop inside the bile ducts. When the bile ducts become blocked, they may cause inflammation and swell around them. If the gallbladder becomes inflamed, it can lead to pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin).
- Stage 2 – Cholecystitis: Cholecystitis is an infection of the gallbladder. Bacteria enter the body through a cut or scrape and infect the gallbladder. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and yellowing of the skin.
- Stage 3 – Carcinoma: Carcinoma is a type of cancer where abnormal cells multiply uncontrollably and spread throughout the body. Carcinomas start in the lining of the stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, lungs, breast, prostate, uterus, cervix, ovaries, bladder, kidney, thyroid gland, and blood vessels.
- Stage 4 – Metastasis: Metastasis is the spreading of cancer cells to different parts of the body. Cancer cells travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to distant organs. These cancers may not show any symptoms until they have reached their final destination.
- Stage 5 – Death: Death occurs when cancer spreads beyond the original site and starts affecting other parts of the body. There is no cure for gallbladder cancer once it reaches stage 5.
In the end,
If you have a family history of gallbladder disease, then you should know what foods to avoid. If you don’t know your family history, ask your doctor or healthcare provider. Early detection is key. Gallbladder cancer treatment includes surgery to remove the cancerous tumor along with the removal of the gallbladder. Other treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or targeted therapies. This is a tough battle, but it’s not impossible. Gallbladder cancer survival rates increase if treatment begins soon after diagnosis.
How do I prepare myself mentally?
Before beginning any type of treatment plan, you should educate yourself about what you are facing. You should know how long you’ve had cancer, whether you have spread the disease, and what treatments you might receive. You should also learn about the possible side effects of your treatment plan. In addition, you should make sure that you understand the goals of your treatment plan.
How can I cope emotionally?
Cancer can affect anyone at any time. It can take away your sense of control over your own body and life. Coping with cancer requires emotional support. You may want to talk to someone who understands what you are going through. A family member, friend, clergyperson, counselor, or therapist may be able to offer you advice.