What is Gall Bladder Cancer?

What is Gall Bladder Cancer?

Gall bladder cancer originates from gall bladder. Gall bladder is a small organ located just below the liver. It helps in fat metabolism in the body. The most common problem in gallbladder is gallstones and almost everyone is aware of "gall stones".

Cancer in gall bladder is rare compared to stone formation. In India, gall bladder cancer is much more common compared to western counties. India contributes approximately 10% of the cases in the world. It is especially commonly seen in the Indo-Gangetic belt. The states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal are worst affected.

Anybody can have this cancer and there are certain risk factors attached. Causes of Gall Bladder cancer are long-standing gall bladder stones, some kind of adulterated mustard oil, pollutants, heavy metals, certain infections, and smoking.

It is one of the most aggressive cancers. As gall bladder is hidden below the liver, symptoms show up late. Patients end up presenting in advanced stages. Gallbladder Cancer signs and symptoms are pain in abdomen, weakness, loss of weight and appetite, nausea, vomiting and sometimes yellow discoloration of eyes and skin referred to as jaundice.

Whenever a patient comes with suspicion of gall bladder cancer we do imaging to find the extent of the disease. Things done are ultrasound abdomen/CECT chest abdomen / PETCT. Sometimes, gall bladder cancer is incidentally detected during some other surgery e.g. gall bladder removal due to stones. 

Gallbladder Cancer Treatment: If cancer is localized to gall bladder then we do surgery to remove gall bladder. However, cancer surgeries are more extensive than other surgeries as we need to get larger margins and address blood supply to avoid cancers from spreading or returning. Sometimes we give chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to prevent the disease from coming back. 

For advanced cases where surgery is not possible, we treat patients using chemotherapy in order to achieve disease control and maintain quality of life. Majority of gall bladder cancer patients present with advanced stage.

This is one of those cancers where cancer advancement is slower compared to many other cancers. However, due to higher incidences in India, many Indian studies are coming up with promising treatment options.

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