Gallbladder cancer often goes undetected
Cancer of the gallbladder is very rare. It is also difficult to detect in the early stages because of the location of the gallbladder and because there are often no early signs or symptoms. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ to the right of the abdomen just below the liver. Its purpose is to store bile, or digestive juices that are needed to break down fat. From the gallbladder, bile gets released through the bile duct (a thin tube) that feeds into the small intestine.
There are no known causes of gallbladder cancer and therefore no known prevention other than a healthy diet and lifestyle, with emphasis on plant-based foods. The condition happens to be more common in women and Native Americans. People who have had gallstones may also be more prone to gallbladder cancer due to the prolonged exposure of cells in the gallbladder to bile. Having gallstones, however, rarely leads to gallbladder cancer.
Symptoms and diagnosis of gallbladder cancer
Because gallbladder cancer often goes unnoticed until the disease has progressed, many people don’t experience symptoms at first. In later stages, however, you may experience:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal bloating
- Weight loss
- Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
If you are having symptoms that concern you, be sure to see your doctor. Your doctor will review your medical history and may recommend certain tests, including:
- Imaging tests (ultrasound, CT scan, MRI)
- Blood tests
- Cholangiography (X-ray imaging of the bile duct)
Often times, gallbladder cancer is diagnosed when cells are examined after gallbladder removal for gallstones.