Gallbladder cancer is when cancer cells start forming within the gallbladder. The treatment for the same depends upon the stage in which the cancer is. Read on to know more about the various stages of gallbladder cancer, and more.
Gallbladder cancer is responsible for approximately 3,320 deaths in the United States of America in 2010, states the National Cancer Institute. A person is said to be suffering from gallbladder cancer when the cancer cells start forming within the inner lining of the gallbladder wall. Our gallbladder is a small organ, the shape of which is quite similar to that of a pear. A digestive fluid known as the bile is stored inside the gallbladder which is used to break down the fats present in the food and that helps in the process of digestion.
Though gallbladder cancer is not very common, it can still affect many, especially those who have had gallbladder problems like gallstones, or are more than 50 years of age. Also, women are more likely to experience this condition as compared to men. Normally, detecting gallbladder cancer in the early stage is difficult because of the absence of any significant signs and symptoms. But as the cancer proceeds to higher stages, signs and symptoms become more significant; however, the treatment and prognosis becomes a little difficult.
Signs and Symptoms of Gallbladder Cancer
As mentioned earlier, identifying the signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer is something that is very difficult, almost impossible, when at the earliest of stages. If you are lucky enough to get diagnosed in the earliest stage, then there are high chances for cure. Mentioned below are the signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer, which usually appear in the later stages.
- Pain in the upper right abdomen
- Unexpected weight loss
- Appetite loss
- Bloating in the abdomen
- Formation of lumps in the abdomen
Different Stages of Gallbladder Cancer
Our gallbladder consists of three main tissue layers known as the mucosal, the muscularis, and the serosal layer. The mucosal layer is the innermost layer of the gallbladder, followed by the muscularis layer, which is the middle layer and then comes the serosal layer, which is the outermost layer of the gallbladder. Knowing these terms would actually help you understand the staging of gallbladder cancer explained in the following paragraphs. The following gallbladder cancer stages are detected after conducting various tests and examinations including the blood tests, ultrasounds, CT scans and MRI. In fact, at times even a surgery may be required to check how far the cancer has spread.
Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ)
Also known as carcinoma in situ, the stage 0 of gallbladder cancer is the earliest and the pioneer stage of cancer. This is when the cancer cells are present in the innermost layer called the mucosal layer of the gallbladder. It is rarely that a person is diagnosed in this stage, however, if the cancer is diagnosed at a stage this early, treatment and cure is absolutely possible.
Stage 1 (Bifurcated into stage 1A and 1B)
Some doctors consider stage 1 to be the first stage of gallbladder cancer as it is in this stage that the cancer forms significantly. Stage 1A signifies that the cancer has spread to a greater extent and has gone beyond the mucosal layer thereby affecting the connective tissues between the innermost and the middle layer. Stage 1B signifies that the cancer cells have made their way through the muscularis layer and around. Approximately 1 in 4 cases of gallbladder cancer get diagnosed at this stage.
Stage 2 (Bifurcated into stage 2A and 2B)
A person is said to be in stage 2A of gallbladder cancer when the cancer cells have spread beyond the tissues of the gallbladder and have started affecting the nearby tissues and organs like the liver, pancreas or intestines. If the diagnosis is made of stage 2B, this means that the cancer has spread beyond the gallbladder tissues and has spread to the nearby organs as well as the lymph nodes, though in a less extensive way.
Stage 3 is considered to be among the severe stages of gallbladder cancer wherein more than one surrounding organs, the lymph nodes and the blood vessels of the nearby organs are affected by the cancer cells, especially the portal vein or the hepatic artery.
Stage 4 (End Stage Gallbladder Cancer)
Stage 4 is also known as the end stage of gallbladder cancer. In this stage, the cancer is spread to areas that are far away from the gallbladder. There can be formation of cancerous tumors that can be seen not only in areas or organs near the origin but also organs that are far away.
The treatment would vary depending upon the extent to which the cancer has spread inside the body. As mentioned before, the earlier the prognosis is done, the better it is. End stages of gallbladder cancer do not leave much scope for proper treatment and cure. However, many therapies and medications are used to slow down the rate at which the cancer is spreading within.
For early stage gallbladder cancer treatment, doctors usually consider surgical option to remove the gallbladder and the bile ducts. On the other hand, if the cancer is diagnosed at a later stage, then therapies like chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used to keep the growth rate as slow as possible so that the patient can live with as much comfort and ease as possible when living with this condition.