Although small, your gallbladder has a big job to do. The gallbladder is where bile (a liquid produced by your liver that aids in fat digestion) is stored—without it, you could have difficulty processing fatty foods. Just like many other organs in your body, the gallbladder isn’t resistant to cancer. Unfortunately, gallbladder cancer isn't detectable until its advanced stages, which can make it challenging to treat. You can reduce your risk of cancer by understanding and incorporating changes into your lifestyle.
While gallbladder cancer is rare, there are some things you should know about this disease so that you can understand the warning signs, symptoms and risk factors to aid in prevention.
A direct cause of gallbladder cancer has not yet been discovered. However, the following risk factors could play a role in developing the disease:
- Family history: People whose family members have a history of gallbladder cancer are at increased risk.
- Medical conditions: Several medical issues, such as typhoid fever and others relating to the gallbladder (chronic cholecystitis, gallbladder polyps, etc.) or bile duct, may boost your risk of cancer. Diabetes is another condition believed to contribute to the development of gallbladder cancer.
- Dietary habits: Being on a diet that's high in fat and cholesterol is also considered a risk factor for gallbladder cancer.
- Gallstones: These are stone-like substances formed by the excessive excretion of cholesterol and bilirubin.
- Gender: For unknown reasons, the disease tends to occur more in women than men.
- Obesity: Obesity may increase the risk of gallstones because it forces the liver to make high levels of cholesterol, causing buildup in the bile ducts.
- Age: The prevalence of cancer is more significant in the elderly population.
- Tobacco use: Smokers are more likely to develop cancer than non-smokers.
- Race: Cancer tends to be more common among Mexican Americans and Native Americans than other groups. It is also relatively frequent in India.
- Rapid weight loss: This contributes to the development of gallstones.
- Genetic mutations: Many cancer patients are noted to be affected by mutations to several genes, such as TP53, BAP1, and PIK3CA.
Individuals don't typically see signs that gallbladder cancer has developed until later stages. It’s especially important to take notice of the following unassuming symptoms:
- Lumps in the abdominal area
- Abdominal bloating and pain (especially in the upper right area)
- Unintentional weight loss
- Jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin and whites of eyes)
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Darker-colored urine
- Tarry, paler-colored stool
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of gallbladder and other cancers is to lead a healthy lifestyle and incorporate the following:
- Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet
- Avoid high-fat and high-cholesterol foods
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
Parrish Healthcare is proud to offer our community education about cancer prevention. As a member of the Mayo Clinic, Parrish Cancer Center is able to give our patients access to the latest clinical research, advances, treatments, and services in cancer care. To learn more about our cancer care services, contact us today.