Gallbladder cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the gallbladder, an organ under the liver in the upper abdomen. The gallbladder stores bile, which is made by the liver for fat digestion. Signs of gallbladder cancer include yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), pain in the upper right part of the abdomen, fever, nausea, vomiting, bloating, weight loss, loss of appetite, itchiness, and lumps in the abdomen.
Gallbladder cancer occurs when cells in the gallbladder develop mutations that result in the cells dividing rapidly and resisting death. Those cells form a tumor. Being female and being Native American increases one’s risk of developing gallbladder cancer. Other risk factors include being older, obesity, and having a history of gallstones.
Because the symptoms are consistent with those of many other diseases, gallbladder cancer is difficult to detect early. With that said, there are several tests used to diagnose gallbladder cancer. High levels of a chemical in bile called bilirubin are a sign of gallbladder cancer and can be detected through blood tests. Tumor markers, or proteins that present in the blood with certain cancers, may also be detected by blood tests. X-ray imaging, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and ultrasounds can also be used to diagnose gallbladder cancer. Additional tests may be performed to determine the stage of the disease.
Treatment for gallbladder cancer often involves surgical removal of the gallbladder and surrounding tissues in a procedure called a cholecystectomy. If the cancer cannot be removed, symptoms may be lessened through additional surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or clinical trials. If you have been diagnosed with gallbladder cancer, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are available for more resources and information.