It is one of the rare types of cancers. This cancer develops mainly in the gallbladder.
The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ located in the right side of the lower abdomen beneath the liver and is responsible for storing bile, the digestive juice from the liver.
It can be effectively treated when it is detected and diagnosed in its earliest stages. As the stage of the cancer progresses, the treatment becomes more extensive.
Gallbladder cancer is often not detected due to absence of any noticeable symptoms however most of the times this cancer shows certain symptoms, such as:
- Abdominal ache (especially on right hand side)
- Abdominal bloating
- Loss of appetite
- Unwanted weight loss
- Jaundice symptoms (yellowing of white of eyes and the skin)
- It is advisable to seek an expert medical consultation in case any of these symptoms are seen.
The exact cause for the development of the cancer is not yet known. However, the mutation in the DNA of the tissue cells of the gallbladder results in abnormal rate and manner of growth. This excessive rate of growth of gallbladder cancer cells forms a tumor (mass) eventually. If left untreated, this cancer can spread from the gallbladder to other surrounding part of the body.
It is classified into several stages, mainly depending on the extent of spread of the cancer.
The doctor will perform several tests to determine the stage of the cancer, including:
Exploratory surgery – Performed using minimally invasive surgical techniques to view the inside of the abdomen and look for visible signs of gallbladder cancer.
Bile duct examination – This involves injecting a contrast dye into the bile duct which is useful in advanced diagnostic imaging tests. This procedure allows the doctor to get a clear image of the gallbladder and the bile duct functioning.
Other imaging tests – CT (computerized tomography) scan of the chest and abdomen along with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) tests and ultra-sonography of the liver can also be advised with PET (positron emission tomography) scan.
Using these diagnostic imaging tests, doctors are able to determine the stage of the cancer, as follows:
Stage 1 – Cancer is within the gallbladder.
Stage 2 – Cancer has spread to outer layers of gallbladder and even beyond it.
Stage 3 – Cancer has spread to surrounding organ (liver, stomach or small intestine) and also nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 4 – Cancer is extensively spread with large tumors in multiple nearby organs and other distant parts of the body.
The staging of the cancer is most important to determine the best-suite and advance treatment for the particular case.
Most gallbladder cancers develop in the glandular cells of the organ and are known as adenocarcinoma.
It can be easily diagnosed using:
Blood tests – These help to evaluate the functioning of the liver and check for additional signs and symptoms internally.
Imaging tests – Several advanced diagnostic imaging tests are used to determine the existence and spread of the cancer, such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), ultrasound and CT (computerized tomography) tests.
The doctor will usually consider the stage of the gallbladder cancer, the patient’s age and their overall health status to decide on the most suitable and advanced gallbladder cancer treatment for them.
The main aim of any advanced gallbladder cancer treatment is to remove the cancer, or to at least halt the progress of the disease using combinations of various cancer treatment techniques.
These are the common and advanced treatments:
Surgery – Surgical removal of the cancer is ideal for early stages of the cancer.
The surgery may require removing the complete cancer-affected gallbladder or to remove the entire cancerous gallbladder along with a small portion of the liver.
Chemotherapy – This advanced gallbladder cancer treatment uses specialized medicinal drugs to destroy the cancerous cells in the gallbladder.
Radiotherapy – This advanced gallbladder cancer treatment uses high-energy beams of particle radiation to destroy the cancerous cells by generating targeted heat.