Gallbladder Cancer Facts

What Is Gallbladder Cancer?

Your gallbladder is located just beneath the liver, to the right of the abdomen. This small, pear-shaped organ is responsible for storing bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver.

It is hard to diagnose cancer of the gallbladder because early symptoms are difficult to recognize. Another challenge is the location of the gallbladder. Since it is deep inside the body, cancer can spread easily without detection.

What Increases Your Risk Of Gallbladder Cancer?

Age: Two-thirds of gallbladder cancers are diagnosed in people 65 or older.

Diseases and Conditions:

  • Choledochal Cysts: Cysts formed in the bile duct can cause precancerous changes to cells in the area, raising gallbladder cancer risk.
  • Gallbladder Polyps: Benign tumors in the gallbladder, particularly those larger than 1 centimeter in diameter, may later become malignant, elevating risk of developing gallbladder cancer.
  • Gallstones: Also known as choleithiasis, gallstones are the most common risk factor associated with gallbladder cancer; approximately 75 percent of gallstone cancer patients have gallstones upon diagnosis.
  • Obesity: Gallbladder is diagnosed more often in obese or overweight people. Obesity also increases the risk of gallstones, another risk factor for gallbladder cancer.
  • Porcelain Gallbladder: A condition in which the gallbladder becomes calcified due to long-term inflammation, it is linked to a higher risk of developing gallbladder cancer.
  • Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis: A condition that leads to inflammation and scarring of the bile duct tissue, this disease also raises gallbladder cancer risk.
  • Typhoid: Infection with salmonella (the bacteria responsible for typhoid) can elevate gallbladder cancer risk by inflaming the organ.

Ethnicity: In the United States, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans have the highest risk of getting gallbladder cancer. The risk is lower among African Americans.

Sex: Gallbladder cancer occurs twice as often in women.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have an elevated risk of gallbladder cancer, please consult with a doctor on preventive and early detection measures that are available.

What Are The Symptoms Of Gallbladder Cancer?

Symptoms of gallbladder cancer can go unnoticed until the late stages of the disease, but common symptoms are:

  • Jaundice (yellowing in the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • Discomfort or pain in the upper ride side of the abdomen
  • Lumps in the abdomen, due to cancer blocking the bile duct and causing the gallbladder to swell
  • Light-colored or greasy stools
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Persistent itching
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite or feeling very full after a small meal
  • Nausea or frequent vomiting