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Gallbladder cancer is a relatively uncommon cancer, with an incidence of fewer than 2 cases per 100,000 people per year in the United States. It is particularly common in central and South America, central and eastern Europe, Japan and northern India; it is also common in certain ethnic groups e.g. Native American Indians and Hispanics. If it is diagnosed early enough, it can be cured by removing the gallbladder, part of the liver and associated lymph nodes. Most often it is found after symptoms such as abdominal pain, jaundice and vomiting occur, and it has spread to other organs such as the liver.
It is a rare cancer that is thought to be related to gallstones building up, which also can lead to calcification of the gallbladder, a condition known as porcelain gallbladder. Porcelain gallbladder is also rare. Some studies indicate that people with porcelain gallbladder have a high risk of developing gallbladder cancer, but other studies question this. The outlook is poor for recovery if the cancer is found after symptoms have started to occur, with a 5-year survival rate close to 3%.
Early symptoms mimic gallbladder inflammation due to gallstones. Later, the symptoms may be that of biliary and stomach obstruction.
Of note, Courvoisier's law states that in the presence of a palpably enlarged gallbladder which is nontender and accompanied with mild painless jaundice, the cause is unlikely to be gallstones. This implicates possible malignancy of the gallbladder or pancreas, and the swelling is unlikely due to gallstones due to the chronic inflammation association with gallstones leading to a shrunken, non-distensible gallbladder. However, Ludwig Georg Courvoisier's original observations, published in Germany in 1890, were not originally cited as a law, and no mention of malignancy or pain (tenderness) was made. These points are commonly misquoted or confused in the medical literature.
Gender-- approximately twice as common in women than men, usually in seventh and eighth decades
Chronic typhoid infection of gallbladder; chronic Salmonella typhi carriers have 3 to 200 times higher risk of gallbladder cancer than non-carriers and 1-6% lifetime risk of development of cancer
Various single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have been shown to be associated with gallbladder cancer; however, existing genetic studies in GBC susceptibility have so far been insufficient to confirm any association
Congenital abnormalities of the bile duct such as choledochal cyst
Early diagnosis is not generally possible. People at high risk, such as women or Native Americans with gallstones, are evaluated closely. Transabdominal ultrasound, CT scan, endoscopic ultrasound, MRI, and MR cholangio-pancreatography (MRCP) can be used for diagnosis. A large number of gallbladder cancers are found incidentally in patients being evaluated for cholelithiasis, or gallstone formation, which is far more common. A biopsy is the only certain way to tell whether or not the tumorous growth is malignant.
If detected early in a stage where it has not spread, gall bladder cancer can be treated by surgery. Surgery for gallbladder cancer is called radical cholecystectomy or extended cholecystectomy. It entails the removal of gall bladder along with adequate removal of its liver bed to the healthy tissue. The lymph nodes in the vicinity are also removed. Sometimes removal of a large part of the liver called hepatectomy is required to completely remove the tumor. The bile duct if involved also needs to be removed. However, with gallbladder cancer's extremely poor prognosis, most patients will die within a year of surgery. If surgery is not possible, endoscopic stenting or percutaneous transhepatic biliary drainage (PTBD) of the biliary tree can reduce jaundice and a stent in stomach may relieve vomiting. Chemotherapy and radiation may also be used with surgery. If gallbladder cancer is diagnosed after cholecystectomy for stone disease (incidental cancer), re-operation to remove part of liver and lymph nodes is required in most cases. When it is done as early as possible, patients have the best chance of long-term survival and even cure.
^Duffy, A.; Capanu, M.; Abou-Alfa, G. K.; Huitzil, D.; Jarnagin, W.; Fong, Y.; D'Angelica, M.; Dematteo, R. P.; Blumgart, L. H. (2008-12-01). "Gallbladder cancer (GBC): 10-year experience at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre (MSKCC)". Journal of Surgical Oncology. 98 (7): 485-489. doi:10.1002/jso.21141. ISSN1096-9098. PMID18802958.