Cancer is a dangerous disease, and the treatment for any cancer depends on the stage of cancer, that is its severity. In this article, we will discuss the details of gallbladder cancer treatment chiefly.
Before getting into the details of gallbladder cancer treatment options, let’s briefly understand what is gallbladder and also its function in the human body. Gallbladder is a small muscular, pear shaped organ that is located beneath the liver in the upper abdomen. One of the important functions of liver is secretion of the digestive fluid called bile. Bile is an enzyme which is required for smooth digestion process, and is stored in the gallbladder. When there is high amount of fat and protein in the food, the gallbladder pushes bile into digestive tube and it then aids the digestion process. The gallbladder is also susceptible to many diseases and problems as high as cancer. Let’s understand the gallbladder cancer in detail in the coming paragraph.
Signs & Prognosis
The gallbladder has three important layers of tissues, and tissue layers are made up of cells. Gallbladder cancer is detected when malignant cancerous cells are found in the tissue. These cells spread and multiply slowly from innermost layer to the outermost layer. But the causes that trigger the growth of these cancerous cells are not known. Mutations in the DNA is said to be a reason that causes this abnormal and dangerous cell changes. Studies suggest that women and people who have had a history of gallbladder diseases are more prone to gallbladder cancer. The cancer is also not detected in the early stages as the signs of development of this cancer are similar to many other diseases. It is advised that you consult a doctor in case you notice any of the below signs and symptoms.
- Consistent pain in the upper part of stomach.
- Jaundice and its symptoms.
- High fever and bloating.
- Abdomen lumps and nausea and vomiting.
- Abnormal weight loss.
The case is that these signs are often ignored by people, and only after recurrent episodes of these signs, a doctor is consulted. There are many medical tests that confirm gallbladder cancer. Blood tests, angiogram, laparoscopy, laparotomy or computerized imaging scans like CT scan and MRI scan are used to diagnose cancer. If the presence of cancerous cells in the gallbladder is detected, the doctor may perform an exploratory surgery or some other tests to determine the spread of these cancerous cells. Depending on the spread of these cells, the stage of the cancer is determined and the treatment starts.
There are four stages of gallbladder cancer that rise in severity (the extent to which the cells have spread). Early detection is difficult as there are no obvious signs of the presence of cancer cells. The treatment varies as per the stage of detection. The cancer is either localized or unresectable. Localized means the cancer has only affected the root organ, which in this case is gallbladder, this is the case in early stages (first and second) of cancer. Surgery to remove the gallbladder is the treatment option used in localized cancer. Unresectable means the cancerous cells have spread to other organs of the body, and surgery to remove the gallbladder would not work. Let’s discuss the four stages of cancer briefly along with the treatment option for each stage.
- Stage one is when the cancerous cells in the gallbladder are detected very early. In this stage the spread of cancerous cells is restricted to the innermost layer, mucosa layer of the gallbladder, and has not spread to the outer layers. In short it is limited only to the gallbladder. In such an instance, surgery to remove gallbladder is suggested (cholecystectomy).
- In the second stage of cancer, the cancerous cells have spread to the outer layers and/or have affected nearby tissues from other organs. If this is the case, surgery to remove the gallbladder, along with the portion of affected tissue from other organs is conducted.
- Third and fourth stages are dangerous as the cancerous cells have spread to the surrounding organs like liver, stomach and other lymph nodes through the blood stream. In the fourth stage the cancerous cells reach the organs near the gallbladder, and grow there. These stages are dangerous because the cells rapidly spread throughout the body through blood stream, and affect all the organs. Surgery cannot be used to cure cancer in these dangerous stages and procedures that kill the affected cancer cells are used. Chemotherapy, which is a therapy based on the use of chemicals to kill the cancer cells, and radiation therapy, which is based on the use of radiations to kill the cancer cells, are used to some extent.
These treatments relieve pain to some extent. Support of family and friends also plays a huge role in coping with cancer. It is very hard to detect gallbladder cancer, as the warning signs which we had discussed earlier usually go unnoticed. So it is advised that you consult the doctor if there are recurrent episodes of the given signs.