The gallbladder is a small, oblong organ on the right part of the abdomen, just underneath the liver. The gallbladder stores up bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver. Gallbladder cancer is unusual and chances of cure are higher if found at an early stage. But most of them are discovered at a late stage, when the prediction of cure is mostly very poor. Gallbladder cancer is not easy to diagnose because it does not show any early signs or symptoms. It is usually an adenocarcinoma.
Gallbladder Cancer Signs and symptoms may include:
- Stomach ache and bloating, more specifically in the upper right section of the abdomen
- Food aversion
- Sudden weight loss
- Jaundice (Yellowing of the eyes and skin)
Gallbladder Cancer Risk Factors
Factors contributing to the risk of gallbladder cancer include:
- Sex of the Patient: This type of cancer is more common in women
- Age Factor: Your risk of gallbladder cancer increases as you age
- Weight Issues: Obese people are at a higher risk for developing gallbladder cancer
- History of Gallstones: Gallbladder cancer is most common in individuals who have had gallstones in the past
- Other Gallbladder Diseases and Conditions: Other conditions that may increase the risk of gallbladder cancer include porcelain gallbladder, choledochal cyst and chronic gallbladder infection
Gallbladder Cancer Diagnosis
Tests and procedures used to diagnose gallbladder cancer include:
- Blood tests to evaluate liver function
- Imaging tests – ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Once gallbladder cancer is diagnosed, the next step is to check the stage .Tests and procedures used to stage gallbladder cancer include:
- Exploratory Surgery
- Tests to Examine the Bile Ducts: Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, Magnetic resonance cholangiography and Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography
- Additional Imaging Tests: CT of the chest and abdomen, ultrasonography and MRI of the liver and positron emission tomography
Gallbladder Cancer Treatment
Treatment for gallbladder cancer depends on the stage and overall health.
The main aim of the treatment is to get rid of the cancer, but when that is not possible, other therapies may aid to control the spread of the disease.
Treatments for Late-Stage Gallbladder Cancer
Surgery cannot cure the cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Instead, doctors provide treatments that may provide relief from the symptoms of cancer
Advanced gallbladder cancer can cause blockages in the bile ducts, leading to further complications. Procedures to ease blockages such as placing a hollow metal tube (stent) in a duct to hold it open or reroute bile ducts around the blockage (biliary bypass) surgically may help.
Surgery for Early-Stage Gallbladder Cancer
Surgery may be an alternative if it is an early-stage gallbladder cancer. Choices include:
- Cholecystectomy: Surgery to remove the gallbladder
- Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy are other modalities of treatments offered.
Radiation Therapy uses doses of radiation to kill or shrink tumours and may be used in combination with chemotherapy. Proton Therapy, a form of radiotherapy that used high energy protons can be used to treat Gallbladder cancers with potentially 60% reduction in radiation to the surrounding healthy organs. This ensures significant decrease in side effects during and after cancer treatment. Proton Therapy is available at the Apollo Proton Cancer Centre, South East Asia’s first proton therapy centre.