Gallbladder cancer can develop from cholesterol gallstones (which increases the patient’s likelihood of developing cancer to 4 or 5 percent). It is one of the more rare forms of the disease, found mostly in central and South America, central and Eastern Europe, Japan, and India. This type of cancer is especially high among the Native American Indian and Hispanic populations. It is the fifth most common gastrointestinal cancer in the United States.
Gallbladder Cancer Signs & Symptoms
The most common symptoms of gallbladder cancer are:
- Abdominal pain
- Visible mass in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen
Gallbladder Cancer Diagnosis & Staging
Gallbladder cancer is usually not diagnosed until it is in later stages. Patients who have been treated for gallstones are closely monitored following their surgery to detect any presence of a cancerous mass.
The stages of gallbladder cancer are:
- Stage I: Mass is limited to the gallbladder and can be completely removed. Patients with cancer in this stage can anticipate a 5-year survival rate of almost 100%.
- Stage II: Mass is in the gallbladder but cannot be completely removed. (Most patients with gallbladder cancer are in this stage.)
- Stage III: Mass may have metastasized tothe liver or other nearby organs.
- Stage IV: Mass has metastasized to main portal vein or other distant organs.
The disease can usually be treated successfully by removing the gallbladder, portions of the liver and lymph nodes.
Gallbladder Cancer Outlook
Gallbladder cancer has a poor prognosis. Even if the gallbladder and other internal organs are removed, many patients die within a year following the operation. If surgery is not an option, a doctor can implant a stent in the stomach to reduce vomiting or an endoscopic stent to reduce the appearance of jaundice. Some patients also opt for chemotherapy and radiation as well as surgery. It is advised that a patient undergo the surgery as soon as possible to increase their odds of recovery and survival.