Gallbladder cancer is a cancer that affects the biliary tract, which is essential for proper digestion of fats and waste. If bile, a bitter fluid created in the liver cells, empties from the body at a slow rate, it increases the time that healthy cells are exposed to carcinogens. The biliary tract carries these secretions from the liver to the duodenum. While the exact relationship between gallbladder cancer and toxic materials is yet to be determined, researchers have linked gallbladder cancer to the exposure of hazardous chemicals like asbestos, which damage the cells in the biliary tract.
Most often, gallbladder tumors develop in the inner lining of the gallbladder, a small pear- shaped organ in the abdomen. Gallbladder cancer is extremely invasive and can quickly metastasize to other parts of the body including the gallbladder wall, nearby lymph nodes, or the liver.
Gallbladder Cancer Risk Factors
A number of risk factors may increase the incidence of gallbladder cancer including age, sex, race, bile duct abnormalities, cigarette smoke, and exposure to cancer-causing agents such as asbestos. Asbestos is an extremely toxic fibrous mineral that was widely used to manufacture a number of products worldwide. If asbestos fibers become airborne, they are inhaled or ingested, causing serious injury or illness, potentially including gallbladder cancer.
In Britain seven out of every ten victims of this disease are women. The onset of gallbladder cancer may be sparked by inflammation of the bile ducts and calcification within the gall bladder; not all of the causes are thoroughly understood. What has been proven in the UK however is the fact that workers in the metal or rubber industries are more likely to develop this malignancy.
Symptoms of Gallbladder Cancer
Symptoms of gallbladder cancer may include:
- Abdominal pain (typically in the top right area of the abdomen
- Severe weight loss
- Nausea and Vomiting (occurs when a tumor blocks the biliary tract)
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
Signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer are rare in the early stages of the disease. As the cancer advances, common symptoms may be similar to those seen in gallbladder complications such as infection or gallstones. If you experience any of these symptoms of gallbladder cancer, it is important to consult with your doctor.
- Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk, National Cancer Institute, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/asbestos/print
- Risks and Causes of Gallbladder Cancer, Cancer Research UK, http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/type/gallbladder-cancer/about/risks-and-causes-of-gallbladder-cancer