Gall Bladder Cancer
The gall bladder is a small pouch that stores and concentrates bile. Bile is a fluid that helps us to digest food. Its main function is to break down fats in food. Bile is made by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. The gall bladder is connected to the small intestine and the liver by the bile ducts.
Cause and Risk Factors
Most of the time liver cancer in the early stages does not cause symptoms. If symptoms are present, they may include:
- Gall stones and inflammation: Gall bladder cancer is more likely to occur in people who have a history of gallstones or in people who have inflammation of the gall bladder (cholecystitis). However, most people who have gallstones or an inflamed gall bladder won’t develop gall bladder cancers.
- Polyps: These are non-cancerous (benign) tumours of the gall bladder that increase the risk of developing gall bladder cancer.
- Abnormal bile ducts: Gall bladder cancer is slightly more common in people who are born with (congenital) abnormalities of the bile ducts.
- Porcelain gall bladder: People who have a condition called porcelain gall bladder, in which calcium forms in the wall of the gall bladder, also have a slightly increased risk of this type of cancer.
- Smoking: Some evidence suggests that people who smoke cigarettes are more likely to develop gall bladder cancer.
- Family history: People who have a close relative (parent, brother or sister) with gall bladder cancer have a slightly higher risk of developing this type of cancer.
- Obesity: Being overweight increases your risk of developing gall bladder cancer.Early gall bladder cancer often causes no symptoms and is usually discovered unexpectedly when someone has surgery to remove gallstones. About 1 in 5 gall bladder cancers are found in this way.
Most tumours are only discovered at an advanced stage. They can cause a variety of symptoms, including sickness, high temperatures, weight loss and pain in the tummy (abdomen).
If the cancer blocks the bile duct, it may stop the flow of bile from the gall bladder into the small bowel. This causes bile to flow back into the blood and body tissues, and leads to the skin and whites of the eyes becoming yellow (known as jaundice).
The urine also becomes a dark yellow colour and stools (bowel motions) are pale. The skin may become itchy.
These symptoms may be caused by other problems, such as gallstones or infection of the gall bladder, but it’s important to get them checked by your doctor.