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Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder Cancer Causes

The specific cause of gallbladder cancer is currently not known. However, it is believed that malignant tumors may develop in the biliary tract as a result of exposure to toxins that are routinely digested by the liver. These potentially damaging toxins are normally released into the bile for excretion, but if the bile eliminates these toxins more slowly than usual, it increases the exposure of healthy cells to these dangerous substances.

Gallbladder Cancer Definition

Gallbladder cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the gallbladder in particular and the biliary tract in general. The gallbladder, along with the bile duct, is responsible for transporting bile. Cancerous gallbladder tumors are called adenocarcinomas, which commonly develop in the inner surface of the gallbladder. These adenocarcinomas are extremely invasive, rapidly penetrating deep into the gallbladder and spreading from the inner surface to the outer surface of the gallbladder. If untreated, the cancer can spread to lymph nodes or travel through the bloodstream and invade other parts of the body.

Gallbladder Cancer Diagnosis

In most cases, gallbladder cancer is detected accidentally through unrelated laboratory examinations. Because the disease is asymptomatic in its early stage, only a small percentage of cases are diagnosed before the cancer has advanced beyond repair. If gallbladder cancer is suspected, however, the following tests will help confirm the diagnosis: blood tests to screen for elevated bilirubin and phosphatase; an ultrasound; an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS); plus a computerized tomography scan (CT scan).

Gallbladder Cancer Symptoms and Signs

In its initial stage, gallbladder cancer is usually asymptomatic. Most affected individuals rarely feel any symptoms, and discovery of the cancer is often incidental to gallstone treatment. Most cases are usually quite advanced before a diagnosis is made. When gallbladder cancer becomes symptomatic, its symptoms often mimic those of more common gallbladder disorders. Common symptoms of this cancer are: abdominal pain, vomiting and nausea, jaundice, and unexplained weight loss.

Gallbladder Cancer Treatment

If gallbladder cancer is detected early, the best option for treatment is to surgically remove the gallbladder or part of the bile duct to eliminate the cancerous tissue. However, if the cancer has advanced, no form of surgical intervention can remove the cancer completely, in which case therapy is mostly focused on symptom management alone.

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