Gallbladder cancer is cancer that begins in the gallbladder.
Your gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, just below your liver. The gallbladder stores bile, a digestive fluid produced by your liver.
Gallbladder cancer is rare. When gallbladder cancer is discovered in its early stages, the chances of recovery are very good. But most gallbladder cancers are discovered at a late stage, when the prognosis is often very poor.
Gallbladder cancer is difficult to diagnose because it often causes no specific signs or symptoms. Also, the relatively hidden nature of the gallbladder makes it easy for gallbladder cancer to grow undetected.
Symptoms of gallbladder cancer
Signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer may include:
Abdominal pain, especially in the upper right part of the abdomen.
Lose weight without trying.
Yellowness of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice).
Causes of gallbladder cancer
It is not known what causes gallbladder cancer.
Doctors know that gallbladder cancer forms when healthy gallbladder cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. These mutations cause cells to grow out of control and continue to live when other cells would normally die. The cells that accumulate form a tumor that can grow beyond the gallbladder and spread to other areas of the body.
Most gallbladder cancers begin in the gland cells that line the inner surface of the gallbladder. Gallbladder cancer that begins in this type of cell is called adenocarcinoma. This term refers to the way cancer cells appear when examined under a microscope.
Factors that may increase the risk of gallbladder cancer include:
Your gender. Gallbladder cancer is more common in women.
Your age. Your risk of gallbladder cancer increases with age.
A history of gallstones. Gallbladder cancer is most common in people who have had gallstones before. However, gallbladder cancer is very rare in these people.
Other diseases and conditions of the gallbladder. Gallbladder polyps and chronic gallbladder infection are other gallbladder conditions that can increase the risk of gallbladder cancer.
Surgery to remove gallbladder cancer
If gallbladder cancer is caught early and hasn't spread, you may be able to have surgery to remove it.
This will usually involve removing the entire gallbladder, as well as parts of other organs or surrounding lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are part of your body's immune system.