Gallbladder Cancer Causes Symptoms And Risk Factors

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Gallbladder cancer, though relatively rare, is a serious malignancy that arises in the tissues of the gallbladder, a small organ located beneath the liver. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and risk factors associated with this cancer is crucial for early detection and effective treatment.

Here, we will explore the various aspects of gallbladder cancer, including its types, potential causes, common symptoms, and the stages used to classify the disease. By shedding light on these critical aspects, individuals can become more informed about gallbladder cancer and take proactive steps towards prevention and early intervention.

What Is Gallbladder Cancer?

Gallbladder cancer happens when cancer cells grow in your gallbladder. It is a pear-shaped organ under your liver. The gallbladder stores and releases bile. It is a fluid that helps digest fats. The cancer usually starts in the innermost layer of the gallbladder and may not show symptoms early on.

It’s often discovered during gallbladder surgery. If found early, the cure rate is high with surgery. Many people are diagnosed when the cancer has already spread, making it harder to treat.

Types Of Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder cancer is uncommon, and most cases are adenocarcinomas (a type of cancer that develops in the glands that line your organs). Adenocarcinoma begins in gland-like cells lining various body parts, including the digestive system.

One rare type of gallbladder adenocarcinoma is papillary adenocarcinoma or papillary cancer. These cancers have cells arranged in finger-like projections. Generally, papillary cancers are less likely to spread to the liver or nearby lymph nodes.

There are also other rare types of cancer that can start in the gallbladder. It includes squamous cell carcinomas, adenosquamous carcinomas, and carcinosarcomas.

Causes Of Gallbladder Cancer

The cause of cancer is unclear. Doctors believe it happens when healthy cells in the gallbladder develop changes in their DNA. These changes make the cells grow uncontrollably and survive when they should normally die. This excessive growth results in a tumour. It can extend beyond the gallbladder and spread to other body parts.

Cancer in the gallbladder often starts in the glandular cells lining the inner surface of the gallbladder. Gallbladder cancer that begins in this type of cell is called adenocarcinoma. The term “adenocarcinoma” describes how the cancer cells look under a microscope.

Symptoms Of Gallbladder Cancer

With no early symptoms, it becomes challenging to identify cancer in the gallbladder. Besides, the symptoms are similar to bile duct blockage or gallstones, making it confusing. Symptoms include:

  • Yellowed whites of the eye and yellowed skin (Jaundice)
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Abdominal lumps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fever
  • Bloating

Stages Of Gallbladder Cancer

Cancer staging helps your doctor identify if cancer has spread from where it started. They assign a number (from zero to four) to show how far the cancer has spread. A higher number suggests the disease has spread more.

The stages of gallbladder cancer are:

  • Stage 0 (carcinoma in situ): Abnormal cells are in the inner layer of the gallbladder.
  • Stage 1: Cancer cells in the inner layer may reach the muscle wall.
  • Stage 2: Cancer has reached beyond the muscle layer to the connective tissues.
  • Stage 3: Cancer has reached the liver, nearby organs, gallbladder’s outer layer, and maybe lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4: Cancer has reached more than three nearby lymph nodes, blood vessels, or organs away from the gallbladder.

Stage 1 is called local, meaning the cancer hasn’t spread beyond the gallbladder. It can potentially be cured. Stages 2 to 4 are harder to treat.

Risk Factors For Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder cancer demonstrates a higher incidence among specific demographic groups, including:

  • Women or individuals assigned female at birth
  • American Indian, Alaskan Native, or Mexican-American populations
  • Individuals aged 65 and above, with the average age of diagnosis being 72 years old

Additionally, certain risk factors contribute to the development of gallbladder cancer, such as:

  • Presence of gallstones or a history thereof
  • Gallbladder polyps
  • Chronic inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) over an extended period
  • Persistent infection with Salmonella typhi, the bacterium responsible for typhoid fever.
  • Formation of calcium deposits in the gallbladder (porcelain gallbladder)
  • Chronic inflammation within the bile ducts (primary sclerosing cholangitis)
  • Presence of cysts in the common bile duct (choledochal cysts)
  • Obesity
  • Smoking and potential exposure to specific chemicals utilised in textile and rubber manufacturing may elevate the risk of developing gallbladder cancer.

Treatment Options For Gallbladder Cancer

The cancer stage has a significant impact on the treatment plan. The primary goal remains cancer removal. Advanced treatments include symptom management and extending life.

Early Stage Cancer Treatment

Surgery: A surgical oncologist might take out your gallbladder and nearby tissues (cholecystectomy). If it’s a simple cholecystectomy, they’ll just remove your gallbladder. If it’s an extended cholecystectomy, the doctor may take out other tissues with cancer cells. Affected lymph nodes or part of your liver can also be included.

Radiation Therapy: This method includes a machine outside your body (EBRT) to aim radiation at your cancer. It kills cancer cells or slows down their growth while minimising damage to healthy cells. After surgery, one might get this treatment to ensure any remaining cancer cells are gone.

Chemotherapy: It utilises drugs to kill or stop cancer cells from growing. Chemotherapy can also be given after surgery to eliminate any remaining cancer cells. Your doctor might suggest having chemotherapy along with radiation therapy.

Advanced Stage Cancer Treatment

If cancer can’t be removed with surgery, has come back, or has spread, it can’t be cured. Although treatments like radiation and chemotherapy won’t get rid of the cancer, they can help manage symptoms and prolong life.

You can join a clinical trial. It is a study testing new treatments or approaches to existing ones. Some ongoing trials for gallbladder cancer involve:

Targeted Therapy: Treatment focusing on cancer cells with specific gene mutations.

Immunotherapy: Treatment boosting your immune system to better identify and destroy cancer cells.

Radiosensitizers: Treatment making cancer cells more responsive to the effects of radiation therapy.

Prevention And Early Detection Strategies

There is no actual way to prevent gallbladder cancer. This is because most of its risk factors, like age, sex, and ethnicity, are beyond control. However, here are a few things to try to lessen the risk –

  • Keep yourself physically active
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc., in your diet
  • Avoid sugary drinks, processed meat, and other processed food items
  • Avoid consuming alcohol

How Does Punarjan Ayurveda Treat Cancer In The Gallbladder?

Punarjan Ayurveda helps you in your fight against gallbladder cancer. Our place combines ancient Ayurvedic wisdom with modern medicine to create a special treatment.

Our goal is to strengthen your body’s natural defences against cancer. We focus on preventing and fighting chronic diseases. The goal is to erase cancer and make you healthier.

Bladder cancer not only affects your body but also your emotions. Our team will guide and protect you through this journey.

At Punarjan Ayurveda, we’re reaching out to everyone fighting cancer. Here are some methods used by us to combat the condition –

Strengthens Body: Ayurveda enhances your body’s natural strength and protects it from infections. Herbal remedies like Swarna Bhasma are used to do it.

Ayurvedic Herbs:Ashwagandha, Guduchi, and Shatavari have withanolides, flavonoids, and lactones. These substances slow down cell growth by affecting specific pathways and controlling cancer development.

Toxin Elimination –Detoxification removes harmful toxins that can cause diseases. This makes the bladder’s insides healthy again.

Supports Cell Health: Special herbs called Rasayana are full of antioxidants. They keep cells healthy by preventing damage from harmful free radicals in the bladder tissues.

Balances the Body:Rasayana balances Vata, Pitta, and Kapha in the body. It fixes issues that cause frequent infections.


Cancer in the gallbladder is rare and severe. If you experience any of the above-mentioned cancer symptoms, consult your healthcare professional immediately. About 20% of cancers in the gallbladder are detected early. The survival rate for the localised cancers in the gallbladder is 66%. You have an excellent chance of curing if the cancer is detected early. Stay informed and updated. Having appropriate knowledge can make a significant difference.


What Is The Major Risk Factor For Gallbladder Cancer?

A common risk factor for cancer in the gallbladder is gallstones. Around four of five people with gallbladder cancer already have gallstones. It is a pebble-like deposit of cholesterol.

Can You Prevent Gallbladder Cancer?

It is rarely possible to prevent cancer in the gallbladder. However, you can do your best by staying physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.

How Long Can A Person Live With Gallbladder Cancer?

The survival rate for gallbladder cancer varies widely depending on factors like stage and treatment. On average, the 5-year survival rate is approximately 20%. Early detection and effective treatment can improve outcomes.

Is Stage 4 Gallbladder Cancer Curable?

In stage 4, the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, blood vessels, and other body organs. It is a bit challenging to cure cancer at this stage.

What Organs Are Affected By Gallbladder Cancer?

Cancer may spread to the innermost layer of the gallbladder, its muscles, and tissues covering it. Other organs that might be affected are the liver, small intestine, colon, stomach, etc.