Gallbladder Cancer Detection

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Gallbladder cancer is rare type of cancer in the world, except for some parts of America such as South and Central America. This disease grows at a fast pace and may disturb the body's digestive metabolism or overall health soon after the cancer appears.

Hence, gallbladder cancer detection at an initial stage, while the tumor growth has not turned into malignant growth is the best time to cure the disease. This cancer type is difficult to cure in the advanced stages.

Gallbladder organ is not as essential as other vital organs such as heart, kidney, and brain. A patient detected with a malignant growth in the gallbladder surface or wall can be treated with a complete removal of the organ and still manage to survive with a good quality of life.

There are certain screening and imaging tests to diagnose the disease and also to detect the level of the cancer growth and the areas affected by the malignancy. According to these detection results, a proper treatment plan is executed to cure the gallbladder cancer patient and relieve his/her symptoms for the disease.

Detection of the Gallbladder Cancer:

There are various procedures to detect and capture pictures of gallbladder as well as some of the surrounding areas such as liver and bile duct to see the malignant growth if any. The diagnosis is vital after one or more symptoms of the disease show up in the patient such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and signature characteristic abdominal pain and at times jaundice.

As per the doctor's recommendation any or more than one of the following tests will help detect the condition:

  • Physical Examinations - Although no cancer can be detected directly by a physical examination, but this can serve as a basic examination for the detection of cancer to check for any lumps and abdominal tenderness etc. to recommend further diagnostic tests to the patient.

    Also, the patient may be interviewed for his/her family and medical history, routine health habits as well as any treatments taken before.

  • Ultrasound Examinations - As the name suggests ultrasound waves (high energy sound waves) are used to diagnose the problem. The procedure involves the use of an instrument, transducer is rotated on the abdomen and echoes are made out of the waves bouncing off the body organs and tissues.

    These echoes are then used to create a picture of the certain body part and are termed as sonograms. The pictures are sufficient to detect any tumor growth in the gallbladder wall or lining.

  • Computer Tomography (CT) Scan - This procedure is an enhanced examination of x-rays. However, unlike x-rays, the procedure creates multiple pictures of the affected area, while the patient lies on a flat surface.

    A computer is connected to x-ray machine to produce these pictures from different angles. As a safety measure that any other area is not mistaken as a malignant tumor growth, a patient may have to drink a special liquid or also receive contrast dye injections in the veins. This helps in outlining the intestine and see for any abnormal growth in the areas.

  • Blood Tests - There are various types of blood tests to detect cancer of the gallbladder. Blood test may be required to diagnose the level of certain chemicals such as bilirubin that is released by the liver.

    This chemical is responsible for the yellow color of the urine and in case the level of this chemical in the blood increases, abnormality of the liver and gallbladder functioning can be confirmed.

    Other type of blood tests is to detect the tumor markers. There are a few protein types, known as tumor markers. CEA (Carcino embryonic antigen) as well as CA 19-9 are the two types of proteins usually found (not always) in the body while a person suffers from cancer of the gallbladder.

    However, the tumor markers cannot be the only way to confirm the cancer growth in the body as especially a gallbladder cancer, but may be linked to any other cancer type or rarely as any other health condition.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - This is a procedure similar to CT scan imaging, with a difference of the waves used. In CT scan, x-rays are used to create images, whereas, in MRI, radio waves, magnet and computer are used to create a series of images of the patient's body.

    As in CT scan, even for this procedure, a dye may be administered intravenously to highlight the outlines of the ducts carrying bile. This dye works well to give a clear image of the gallbladder and surrounding areas to detect any tumor growth and also in understanding what type of growth is it a malignant or non-malignant.

  • Biopsy - This is a procedure to remove the tissues or cells from gallbladder region and surrounding organs to observe under the microscope. A fine needle is used for this procedure and the procedure may be performed after surgical removal of tumor in the gallbladder.

    However, in case, other examinations such as CT scan, MRI and ultrasound etc are sufficient to diagnose the tumor growth to be cancer of the gallbladder, then doctors may opt to directly treat it with surgical removal.

  • Laparoscopy - It is a little invasive procedure that involves an incision in the abdomen to let a laparoscope inside a gallbladder. Laparoscope is small tubular instrument with a light and video camera to capture multiple images of the affected region. These images make clear whether the cancer is confined to the gallbladder or has reached to other areas as well.

There are various examinations for gallbladder cancer detection. Other than the above list, an angiography is done to observe the blood vessels, and detect any blockage of the bile duct.

It is good to detect the cancer early as it soon may turn to be invasive and life threatening. Due to lack of any early signs, the cancer is usually detected late and hence, offer poor prognosis of any treatment during advanced stage.

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