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Gall bladder cancer

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When tissues of the gallbladder turn cancerous, the condition is diagnosed as gallbladder cancer. Cancer in gallbladder is rare and when detected in early stage, recovery is completely possible.
 
Stages of gall bladder cancer
 
There are 4 stages of gallbladder cancer:
 
  • Stage 1: present only in the inner mucosa layer of the gallbladder
  • Stage 2: cancer progresses to the outer layer of the gallbladder
  • Stage 3: cancer has become metastatic- started spreading to proximal organs like liver, bile duct and lymph nodes
  • Stage 4: the cancerous cells or the tumours infest other organs of the body


Symptoms of gallbladder cancer 

There are no signs and symptoms of an early stage of gallbladder cancer. However, gradually an individual will be experiencing the following symptoms.
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Bloating in stomach
  • Pain above the stomach
  • Lumps inside abdomen 
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What causes gallbladder cancer?
 
The exact reason behind gallbladder cancer is not yet known. Doctors consider mutation in the DNA of gallbladder cells could be the general reason behind gallbladder cancer. The cancer begins in the innermost mucosal layer of the gallbladder and progresses towards the outermost serosal layer.
 
So who are at risk?
 
  • More common in older people than in younger people. 
  • Women are at greater risk than men.
  • Those with history of gallbladder stones, cysts and gallbladder infections
  • Family history of gallbladder cancer
  • Those having abnormalities in the pancreas and bile duct 
  • Cigarette smoking and some exposure to industrial chemicals like nitrosamines
  • Most cases of gallbladder cancer have been found out in Native Americans

When to see a doctor?
 
You should fix an appointment with your doctor on experiencing the aforementioned symptoms. Apart from that, you may be screened for cancer as well while being diagnosed for gallstone or gallbladder infections.
 

Diagnosis of gallbladder cancer
 
Since the symptoms are not really evident confirming a cancer in the primary stage is difficult.
 
Your doctor will consider checking your medical history, evaluating the symptoms and examining your abdomen physically.
 
Following tests are performed to confirm presence of cancer:
 
  • Blood tests to check liver and gallbladder function and presence of tumour markers (CEA and CA 19-9 protein)
  • Imaging tests like ultrasound, CT scan and MRI to get detailed pictures of the tissues
  • Laparoscopic viewing of the abdomen to estimate spread of cancer
  • Cholangiography – to analyse the condition of the bile duct
  • Biopsy- sample of gallbladder tissues are collected for confirming cancer as well as for determining the stage

Treatment of gallbladder cancer
 
The treatment depends on the stage of cancer and diagnosed condition of the bile duct- i.e. whether it has been blocked.
 
If the cancer is in the early stage, then your doctor will perform a surgery to remove the gallbladder. This procedure is medically coined as cholecystectomy. If the cancer has spread to nearby liver cells or the bile duct, then specific portions of those organs may be removed as well.
 
If the bile duct has been blocked, then invasive surgery like stenting or biliary bypass may be performed.
 
Gallbladder cancer in the last stage cannot be cured. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the only options to increase the lifespan of the individual.
 
Can gallbladder cancer be prevented?
 
Gallbladder cancer cannot be prevented. Nevertheless, you can eliminate the risk factors by getting proper treatment for gallbladder problems and bile duct complications. It’s important to follow the diet as suggested by your doctor and maintain a healthy weight.
 
Despite getting cured of cancer, chances of recurrence remain. Discuss with your doctor about the lifestyle changes needed post operation or while undergoing treatment.


Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last modified: Feburary 01, 2014