What is a Gallbladder?
The gallbladder (cancer) is essentially a small, pear-shaped organ located beneath the liver on the right side. Bile, a fluid that is effectively produced by the liver, is concentrated and stored in the gallbladder. Bile, in fact, aids in the digestion of fats in food as they pass through the small intestine. Although the gallbladder is functional, most people live normal lives after removing it.
What is gallbladder cancer?
Gallbladder cancer develops when normal gallbladder cells become abnormal and begin to proliferate uncontrollably. However, this can result in the formation of a tumour, which is a mass of cells. Initially, the cells are precancerous, which means they are abnormal but not cancerous. Gallbladder cancer occurs when precancerous cells transform into cancerous or malignant cells and/or spread to other parts of the body. Adenocarcinoma is, in fact, the most common type of gallbladder cancer. Adenocarcinoma of the gallbladder is a type of cancer that begins in the cells that, in fact, line the inside of the gallbladder.
What are the most common symptoms of gallbladder cancer?
- Jaundice (yellow skin)
- Abdomen pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Larger gallbladder
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Black tarry stool
- Severe itching
- Swollen abdomen area
Gallbladder Cancer: Risk Factors
Anything that increases a person’s chances of developing cancer is considered a risk factor. Although risk factors frequently influence cancer development, the majority do not directly cause cancer. Some people who, in fact, have multiple risk factors never develop cancer, whereas others who have no known risk factors do. However, knowing your risk factors and also discussing them with your doctor may help you make better lifestyle and healthcare decisions.
A person’s risk of developing gallbladder cancer can be increased by the following factors:
- Gallstones: The most common cause of gallbladder cancer is gallstones. These are rock-like cholesterol and bile salt formations that can occur in the gallbladder or bile duct. In the United States, gallstones are the most common digestive disease. Gallstones are present in 75% to 90% of gallbladder cancer patients. However, gallbladder cancer affects less than 1% of people with gallstones. It is unknown why some people with gallstone disease develop cancer while others do not.
- Gallbladder polyps: This polyp is a growth that can occur when small gallstones become embedded in the gallbladder wall. Polyps of the gallbladder protrude from the inner gallbladder wall. Inflammation may also be a cause of some polyps. Doctors frequently recommend gallbladder removal for people with polyps larger than 1 centimeter because they are more likely to be cancerous.
- Age: The majority of gallbladder cancer patients are over the age of 70.
- Gender: Women are, in fact, roughly twice as likely as men to develop gallbladder cancer.
- Ethnicity: Mexican Americans and even Native Americans, particularly in the southwestern United States, are more likely than the general population to develop gallbladder cancer.
- Smoking: Tobacco use may essentially increase the risk of developing gallbladder.
- Family history: Surprisingly, a family history of gallbladder raises a person’s risk of developing the disease slightly.
What does stage mean?
When cancer is diagnosed, it is assigned a stage that indicates:
- where the cancer is essentially located
- if or where it has, however, spread
- if it is affecting other organs also in the body (like the liver)
There are five stages of gallbladder:
Whether or not cancer has spread (metastasized) beyond its initial (primary) place is one of the major concerns. Your healthcare professional will give the diagnosis a number (zero through five) representing the degree of spreading. The more the number increases, the more cancer has spread throughout your body. This procedure is known as staging. The gallbladder cancer progression phases are:
Initially, Stage 0: In this there is no evidence of cancer in the gallbladder at this stage.
Then, Stage 1: Cancer has formed and spread to a layer of tissue with blood vessels or to the muscle layer, but not beyond the gallbladder.
Furthermore, Stage 2: Here, the tumour has spread beyond the muscle layer and into the surrounding connective tissue.
Later, Stage 3: The tumour has, in fact, spread through the gallbladder’s thin layer of cells and may have spread to the liver, or another nearby organ, and/or any nearby lymph nodes.
Lastly, Stage 4: In this stage, the tumour has spread to a major blood vessel in the liver, two or more nearby organs, or distant organs. The tumour could have also spread to nearby lymph nodes.
What does a grade mean?
The cancer is also described by grade. Under a microscope, the grade describes how much the tumour resembles normal cells. There are four grades (Grade 1 to Grade 4).
Lower-grade cells resemble normal cells in appearance and behavior. They, in fact, grow slowly and are less likely to spread.
Higher-grade cells appear and behave abnormally. They, however, grow more quickly and are more likely to spread. The stage of cancer can help predict how quickly it will spread.
What is the first stage of the gallbladder and its treatment options?
It is important to remember that finding gallbladder at this early stage is extremely rare. The majority of stage 1 gallbladder cancers are discovered almost by chance. Rarely, gallbladder cancer is discovered during a routine cholecystectomy for gallstones or gallbladder inflammation.
If the cancer is detected early, no further treatment is usually required (stage T1a). In this case, you would typically undergo a simple operation to remove only your gallbladder (cholecystectomy).
However, even early-stage gallbladder cancer can recur. In fact, if the cancer has spread through the muscle layer of the gallbladder wall (stage T1b) or is in the gallbladder near the liver, your surgeon will most likely perform a larger operation. This is referred to as an extended cholecystectomy. This means that the surgeon will also remove the portion of the liver closest to the cancer and also the surrounding lymph nodes. This, however, reduces the likelihood of the cancer returning.
The surgeon may not realise you have cancer until after your operation, when the laboratory reports on your gallbladder arrive. In this case, your doctor may, in fact, advise you to have a second surgery. This will also serve as an extended cholecystectomy.