What is gallbladder cancer?
The gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver. Gallbladder cancer occurs when cells in the gallbladder begin dividing and reproducing rapidly. This cancer is quite rare. The American Cancer Society estimates 11,420 new cases will be diagnosed in 2016, with a slightly higher risk in women than men. It oftentimes goes undetected in the early stages.
What are the risk factors for gallbladder cancer?
The following factors may increase risk for developing gallbladder cancer:
- Being female
- Being obese
- Having a history of gallstones (though this cancer is still rare in individuals who have had gallstones)
- Having had other gallbladder diseases or conditions
In the U.S., gallbladder cancer risk is highest among Native Americans and Mexican Americans; it is lowest among African Americans.
Are there symptoms of gallbladder cancer?
Symptoms of gallbladder cancer may include:
- Abdominal pain (especially in the upper right part of the abdomen, where the gallbladder is located)
- Abdominal bloating
- Lumps in the abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Unintended weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
How do you screen for and detect gallbladder cancer?
Your physician may order blood tests or use CT or MRI scans to view the gallbladder. If gallbladder cancer is diagnosed, then exploratory surgery and/or imaging tests may be used to learn more. A biopsy may be taken for further testing.
The Stages of Gallbladder Cancer
Oncologists at Jordan Valley Cancer Center use the following stages to describe the cancer’s progression:
- Stage 0: In this stage, abnormal cells are found on the inner layer of the gallbladder.
- Stage I: At this point, the cancer has spread beyond the inner layer and into a muscle or vascular layer.
- Stage II: At this point, the cancer has entered the connective tissue around the muscle.
- Stage III: In Stage III, gallbladder cancer has invaded one or more local organs, typically the liver, stomach or small intestine. It is also possible that cancer has invaded local lymph nodes
- Stage IV: In this stage, gallbladder cancer has caused large tumors, which may involve organs in distant areas of the body.
How do you treat gallbladder cancer?
Gallbladder cancer may be treated via cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery) in the early stages. In some surgical candidates, this can be done with minimally invasive/laparoscopic methods. If the cancer has affected parts of the liver or bile ducts, these may also be removed. In some cases, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be recommended in addition to surgery.
The Patient Experience at Jordan Valley Cancer Center
At Jordan Valley Cancer Center, patients are paired with a Nurse Navigator who serves as the patient’s educator and advocate. Should you have any questions, please take advantage of your Nurse Navigator’s knowledge and expertise. For more information, contact us at 801-601-2260.