February: Gallbladder Cancer Awareness Month

February: Gallbladder Cancer Awareness Month

By Jake Konigsberg

Every February is dedicated to raising support and resources for the fight against gallbladder cancer. If not caught early, gallbladder cancer becomes extremely deadly with the average five year survival rate being only 19%. However, if caught early through screening and awareness, the survival rate becomes 65%, meaning if you know what to look for, it will make a huge difference when challenged with gallbladder cancer. This form of cancer within the gallbladder often results in the organ swelling and blocking the bile ducts.

How can we diagnose it early?

There are currently no tests or examinations that can catch gallbladder cancer early and reliably enough to be considered screenings. As a result, there are no designated tests to determine if one has gallbladder cancer; however, if one is to show any symptoms or signs of such a cancer, there are many available testing options for them.

Warning Signs:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Abdominal bloating

  • Weight loss

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)

Common tests:

  • Lab tests to determine the amount of bilirubin in the bloodstream, which is a chemical that causes jaundice

  • Higher levels of gallbladder tumor markers (substances made by cancer cells) such as CEA and CA 19-9

  • Computer tomography (CT) scan which uses x-rays to make a detailed cross section of the body and can find tumors in the abdominal area and even stage those tumors

  • To learn more about these tests and other tests often associated with gallbladder cancer, click here.

How can you reduce your chances of getting gallbladder cancer?

While symptoms usually appear late in the progression of gallbladder cancer, one can look for the common symptoms referred to above as an indication of this diagnosis. The most common symptoms to look for include abdominal (belly) pain, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice. By catching the disease early, one will hopefully be able to limit the spread and progression of the cancer providing them with the best chance of survival. To learn more about the symptoms and signs of gallbladder cancer, click here.

If one has any symptoms or signs of gallbladder cancer, doctors will often check a patient’s medical history to determine any risk factors that they might have. Additionally, to determine if one does have gallbladder cancer, doctors will often run tests including liver and gallbladder functionality, biopsies, ultrasounds, and CT scans. To learn more about the various tests, their effects, and when they are used, click here.

If one thinks they may have gallbladder cancer, it is important to ask the right questions to their doctors. One must be open, honest, and thorough in discussing information with their cancer care team. Having productive discussions with one’s medical staff will enable the staff to provide the most accurate prognosis. Catching gallbladder cancer early enough could ultimately be lifesaving. Luckily, the American Cancer Society has compiled many questions that you should ask your doctors, including:

  • Has my cancer spread beyond the gallbladder?

  • What should I do to be ready for treatment?

  • How will treatment affect my daily activities?

How can you get involved?

  • Donate to the American Cancer Society to help fund gallbladder cancer research and ensure the accessibility of easily digestible information about gallbladder cancer

  • Attend the cholangiocarcinoma conference or interact with its virtual resources to become well versed in gallbladder related cancers as cholangiocarcinoma is a cancer specifically linked to the bile duct often related to gallbladder cancer

For other opportunities, has many ways to get involved.

About the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is a leading cancer-fighting organization with a vision to end cancer as we know it, for everyone. We are improving the lives of people with cancer and their families as the only organization combating cancer through advocacy, research, and patient support, to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer.

Read more about us.

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