What causes gall bladder cancer?

Gall bladder is a storage bag situated below the liver. It stores, concentrates and releases the bile produced by the liver into the intestine.

Whereas the exact cause for developing gall bladder cancer is not very clear, certain risk factors have been studied and reported. Risk factors for cancer affecting the gall bladder includes geography, female gender, high risk factors associated with gall bladder polyp. Geography plays an important role with certain countries like Chile, Northern part of India having a very high incidence of gall bladder cancer.

What is the prognosis for gall bladder cancer?

Only 1 out of 5 gall bladder cancers are picked up early, where they are localised to the gall bladder. At this early stage, the 5 year survival reaches close to 60%. The 5 year survival drops to less than 30%, when it spreads to the adjoining areas and lymph nodes and a dismal 2% when it spreads to distant sites. With newer approaches including precision oncology, neoadjuvant therapy, the outcomes may improve further.

It is important to detect early and after curative treatment be on close follow-up in order to detect any recurrence.

How do you deal with jaundice in gall bladder cancer?

Jaundice in gall bladder cancer indicates block in the bile channel and is usually due to spread of cancer to the bile duct. If jaundice is detected early and the disease is still in the confines of surgery, your doctor may advise for surgery including additional measures to tackle the block in the bile duct, after a multidisciplinary discussion.

If jaundice is complicated by infection referred to as cholangitis, then a stent (pipe made of plastic or special metal alloy) may be placed by endoscopy or guided by ultrasound or CT scan. This can then facilitate further treatment.



What are the symptoms of gall bladder cancer?

  • In the early stages, gall bladder cancer may not have symptoms and by the time, it manifests with symptoms, it can get advanced.
  • Symptoms can range from pain in upper abdomen to vomiting, jaundice, backache and weight loss. Pain is progressive and gets severe. Jaundice can be due to spread of cancer to the bile channel leading to the intestine or associated gall stones causing block in the bile channel.

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