Gallbladder cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the gallbladder (a small pear-shaped organ in the right side of the human abdomen, beneath the liver).
The gallbladder belongs to the biliary system and serves as a reservoir for bile, which is produced in the liver and needed for the emulsion of fats in the digestive tract. When fats are detected in the duodenum, this organ receives a molecular signal that will make it contract rhythmically and therefore releasing the content into the common bile duct, eventually draining into the duodenum. This process is very important in order to assure a proper absorption of the fats initially detected and also because the bile salts released will play a pivotal role in the elimination of bilirubin, a product from the haemoglobin metabolism, from the body.
Gallbladder cancer is not very common. Most of the cancers detected and are adenocarcinomas, developed in cells with gland-like properties, but there are also other types of cancer that must be taken into consideration.
Types of Gallbladder Cancer
Doctors divide the gallbladder cancer into two major groups such as:
- Adenocarcinomas. It represents the 90% of the cases diagnosed. Papillary adenocarcinoma or just papillary cancer is a type of gallbladder adenocarcinoma that deserves special mention. When seen under a microscope, the cells in these gallbladder cancers are arranged in finger-like projections.
- Other types of cancer, such as adenosquamous carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, small cell carcinomas, and sarcomas, can develop in the gallbladder, but these are uncommon.
A number of factors may increase your risk of Gallbladder cancer. Some risk factors can be controlled by having a healthier lifestyle meanwhile others cannot be dealt, for instance the family history.
- The presence of gallstones
- Porcelain gallbladder condition
- Female gender
- Older age
- The presence of Choledochal cysts
- Abnormalities in the bile ducts
- The presence of gallbladder polips
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis condition
- Cronical infection of salmonella
- Family history
Signs and Symptoms
Despite the fact that most Gallbladder Cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread too far to be healed, patients with early Gallbladder Cancer may have any of next symptoms:
- Abdominal pain, particularly in the upper right portion of the abdomen
- Abdominal bloating
- Loss of appetite
- Losing weight without trying
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
As with many other types of cancer, the outcome depends on how advanced your cancer is when it is diagnosed. Unfortunately, for most people gallbladder does not have a very good outlook. For people who have cancer just in the gallbladder lining, 80% survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis. Nevertheless, in the case the cancer has spread into the muscle (stage I) only 50 in 100 will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. Because of the difficulty to detect this type of cancer, only a little more than 25 out of 100 of people with survive for 5 years or more after being diagnosed. Fewer than 10 in 100 people with stage III or IV gallbladder cancer will survive for 5 years or more.
Gallbladder Cancer Diagnosis
PLEASE NOTE: EARLY DIAGNOSIS IN CANCER IS VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE CANCER THAT’S DIAGNOSED AT AN EARLY STAGE ―BEFORE IT’S HAD THE CHANCE TO GET TOO BIG OR SPREAD―, IS MORE LIKELY TO BE TREATED SUCCESSFULLY. IF THE CANCER HAS SPREAD, TREATMENT BECOMES MORE DIFFICULT, AND GENERALLY A PERSON’S CHANCES OF SURVIVING ARE MUCH LOWER.
State of the Art
Over the past of time, different kinds of detection systems have been used with the purpose to detect this type of cancer such as blood tests designed to assess the liver function and imaging techniques. However, these systems are inherently limited: first of all; this organ is deep inside the body and therefore cancers can be hardly seen; secondly, the reliability of the blood tests mentioned before are not high enough and for this reason should not be token in consideration.
In conclusion, nowadays this type of cancer cannot be properly detected in early stages due to the limitations already explained and they are usually found only after the cancer has grown enough to cause signs or symptoms.