Gallbladder Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors and Its Types

Gallbladder cancer is the mostly found in the bile tract, and is more common in women and people older than 60.

Updated: June 16, 2022

Gallbladder cancer is the mostly found in the bile tract, and is more common in women and people older than 60.
The gallbladder is a small sac like organ in the upper right part of the abdomen. It is located under the liver, just below the front rib cage on the right side. It is part of the biliary system, which includes the liver and the pancreas and transports bile and digestive enzymes. Bile, also called gall, is a greenish-brown liquid, produced by the liver to help in the digestion of fats. Bile contains several different substances, including cholesterol and bilirubin and is stored and concentrated in the gallbladder until needed.  The gallbladder contracts and injects bile into the small intestine through a small tube called the common bile duct to helps to break down fats when we eat a high-fat, high-cholesterol meal.
Every time we eat, bile is released into the intestines to assists in the digestive process.
Gallbladder cancer is difficult to diagnose because it often causes no specific signs or symptoms. If discovered at its earliest stages, the chance for a cure is very good. But most gallbladder cancers are discovered at a late stage making treatment difficult.

Causes of Gallbladder Cancer:

When healthy gallbladder cells develop changes in their DNA, results in new cells to grow out of control and to continue living when other cells would normally die. These new cells accumulates and form a tumor that can grow beyond the gallbladder and spread to other areas of the body.
Most gallbladder cancer begins in the glandular cells that line the inner surface of the gallbladder and is known as adenocarcinoma.

Symptoms of Gallbladder Cancer:

The signs and symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain, particularly in the upper right portion of the abdomen
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion, bloating, and gas

Risk Factors of Gallbladder Cancer:

Some of the most common risk factors for gallbladder cancer are:

  • Gallstones
  • Gallbladder polyps
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Choledochal cysts
  • An abnormality of the bile ducts
  • Porcelain gallbladder, in which the gallbladder wall hardens with deposits of calcium
  • Being older than 65
  • Being female
  • A family history of gallbladder cancer
  • Having had typhoid

Gallstones are common risk factor of developing gallbladder cancer. People with gallbladder cancer are more likely to also have gallstones. But only a very small percentage of people with gallstones will develop gallbladder cancer. If gallstones are detected in its early stage, gallbladder cancer along with other complications can also be prevented.

Types of Gallbladder Cancer:

Different types of gallbladder cancer are as below:

Gallbladder Adenocarcinomas:

These are the most common type of gallbladder cancer that begins in the glandular cells that line the inner surface of the gallbladder.
Papillary adenocarcinoma or papillary cancer is a sub type of gallbladder adenocarcinoma. This type of gallbladder cancer can be distinguished easily under a microscope, as the growth of the cancer cells looks like fingers.

Other types of Gallbladder Cancers:

These includes:

Squamous cell carcinomas:

These cancers begins in the squamous cells which is flat, skin-like cells that line parts of the digestive tract.

Small-cell carcinomas:

The cells are round or oat-shaped, also known as oat cell carcinoma.

Adenosquamous carcinomas:

The combination of squamous cells and the glandular cells found in adenocarcinomas forms this type of cancer.

Sarcoma gallbladder cancer:

Sarcomas are a type of cancer which begins from the connective tissues in the body. Connective tissues can be nerves, muscles, and blood vessels which support and protect the body. In the gallbladder, sarcomas form in the muscular tissue of the gallbladder.

Neuroendocrine gallbladder tumors:

These types of gallbladder cancer tumors grow from tissues that produce hormones. The most common form is the carcinoid tumor.

Gallbladder lymphoma :

It is a  group of blood cancers that form in part of the immune system called the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a complex network of ducts and vessels that connect lymph nodes throughout the body. Lymph nodes make immune cells that help the body fight infections. This is an extremely rare type of gallbladder cancer and it may be treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy instead of surgery.

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