What is Gallbladder Cancer?
The gallbladder is a small organ located on the right side of the abdomen, below the liver. Its main job is to store bile, which is a digestive fluid created by the liver. Gallbladder cancer occurs when there is an abnormal growth of cells that begins in this organ. When this form of cancer is caught in the early stages, there is a very good chance for a cure. However, it may not be discovered until it is in later stages since it often has no obvious signs or symptoms.
When there are symptoms associated with gallbladder cancer, they may include:
- Pain in the abdominal area, particularly the upper right portion.
- Abdominal bloating.
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).
- Unintentional weight loss.
While the cause of gallbladder cancer is not entirely clear, doctors do know that it forms when mutations occur in healthy gallbladder cells. There are certain factors that may increase your risk for gallbladder cancer, including being female, having a history of gallstones or other gallbladder conditions or having inflammation of the bile ducts.
How is Gallbladder Cancer Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose gallbladder cancer, your provider may have you undergo some testing, including blood tests to evaluate your liver function, or CT or MRI to view your gallbladder. If gallbladder cancer is detected, your provider will then work with you to determine the stage of your cancer. This may be done through exploratory surgery, tests to examine the bile ducts or additional imaging tests.
Gallbladder Cancer Treatment Options
Overall, the treatment option that is right for you will depend on the stage of your gallbladder cancer, as well as your overall health. Possible treatment options may include:
In cases where gallbladder cancer is still in the early stages, surgery may be an option. Surgery may be performed to remove the gallbladder, or the gallbladder and a portion of the liver.
This treatment uses high-powered energy beams like X-rays to destroy cancer cells. Sometimes, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy after surgery if cancer could not be completely removed.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy fast-growing cancer cells. It can be administered through a vein in your arm, in pill form or both.
Targeted Drug Therapy
These treatments pinpoint specific weaknesses present in cancer cells, killing them. Targeted drug therapy may be a good option for those with advanced gallbladder cancer.
Immunotherapy drug treatment helps your immune system to fight cancer, and is often a good option for treating advanced gallbladder cancer.
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