Gall bladder cancer

The gallbladder is a small organ which is present on the right side of your abdomen, beneath you’re liver. It helps in the storage of the bile, a digestive fluid produced by your liver. There are several types of gallbladder diseases, mainly caused by inflammation or irritation of the gallbladder wall, called cholecystitis. The main reason for this inflammation is due to gallstones that block the ducts leading to biliary obstruction. Other diseases of the gallbladder may include gallbladder polyps and gallbladder cancer.

Gallbladder cancer is a rare disease that forms malignant cells in the gallbladder tissues. It may turn life-threatening if left untreated because cancer spreads from the inner walls of the gallbladder to other vital organs and ducts.

Procedures for blocked bile ducts

If your gallbladder cancer is in advanced stage associated with bile duct blockage, it may cause further complications eventually. Your doctor would, therefore, perform procedures to relieve blockages. Your surgeon would instill a stent to make the place hollow or may surgically reroute the biliary passage. A new stent should be inserted every 3-4 months to prevent blockage. If it does block, jaundice and fever are seen. You need to consult your doctor immediately if these symptoms appear.

Risk factors

Gender: being a female can increase the risk of developing gallbladder cancer. Age: as your age increases, the risk of developing gallbladder cancer increases. Weight: Obese people are at higher risk for developing gallbladder cancer.

Causes

The major causes of gallbladder cancer are unknown; gallbladder cancer develops when there are sudden mutations in the DNA. These cause cells to grow abnormally, these cells accumulate and form a tumor that can grow larger and spread to different areas of the body.

Symptoms

The major signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer include:

  • Nausea
  • Jaundice
  • Itchiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Abdominal bloating

Your doctor would order for the following diagnostic tests to confirm gallbladder cancer, the tests include:

Physical exam

During a physical examination, your doctor would palpate your gallbladder, and asks you to breath, if you feel any sort of pain. Then he/she suspects the presence of gallbladder disease.

Blood tests

Your doctor would order for the liver function tests to determine the cause of the presenting signs and symptoms.

Chest and abdominal x-ray

To rule out the presence of gallstones, your doctor would order for a chest or abdominal X-ray.

Imaging tests

Your doctor would order for computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).The following tests and procedures are recommended to determine the stage of gallbladder cancer.

Exploratory surgery

Your doctor orders for exploratory surgery to look the inside of your abdomen to check if cancer has invaded any other parts.

Examination of bile ducts

This test allows evaluating the presence of any blockages in the bile ducts. A dye is injected into bile ducts and is followed by image testing.

Stages of gallbladder cancer

Stage I the cancer is limited to the inner layers of the gallbladder
Stage II the cancer tends to invade the outer layers of the gallbladder and may extend beyond
Stage III the cancer tends to invade one or more surrounding organs(liver, small intestines, or stomach)
Stage IV the cancer includes large tumors which involve multiple organs and spreads to distant areas body

The treatment plan is to cure the gallbladder cancer. But when you are in an advanced stage that does not cure with treatment, then the goals of the treatment is to control the spread of the disease and improve the quality of life.

Surgery

Surgery is reserved for an early-stage of gallbladder cancer.

Removing the gallbladder:

A procedure called cholecystectomy is performed for the removal of gallbladder if the cancer is in its early stage.

Removing gallbladder and a portion of liver

If gallbladder cancer is extended to the surrounding organs such as liver, then along with the gallbladder a small portion of liver and the surrounding bile ducts are also removed.

Managing final or late stage gallbladder cancer

The final stage cancers after their spread cannot be cured. So, your doctor provides appropriate treatment to reduce the signs and symptoms to make you feel comfortable. .

Treatment options include:

  • Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that helps in killing the cancerous cells.
  • Radiation therapy is useful in killing the cancer cells with the help of high-powered beams such as X-rays