Gallbladder Cancer Diagnosis

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Cancer of the gallbladder is a rare malignant disease that is characterized by dysfunction of the gallbladder and other supportive organs in the digestive system due to the tumor growth in the gallbladder organ.

This is a rare disease but after the onset of the tumor growth, restricting the growth is difficult and also it is complex to treat the condition. For a prompt treatment plan, early diagnosis is vital. Gallbladder cancer diagnosis can be based on various imaging examinations.

Diagnosis aims at confirming the suspected area, with the tumor growth, the extent to which the cancer has spread, suitable treatment plan and the possible chances of the tumor coming back. Based on these and other criteria, an effective treatment technique is decided.

However, the symptoms of gallbladder cancer are not precise and may be vague that resemble to some other disorders. Hence, a doctor may need to have a physical examination as well as verification of a family medical history to recommend diagnostic tests for gallbladder cancer.

Diagnosis of Gallbladder Cancer:

Some of the symptoms related to the disease are diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, jaundice and abdominal pain. Once any of these symptoms show up and doctors suspect the cancerous growth in the gallbladder then following diagnostic examinations are performed:

  • Physical Examinations - Although, solely a physical examination is not sufficient to detect the problem, but it certainly aids the diagnosis. A close look at the abdomen is made to check for any abnormal masses, or tenderness in the surrounding region.
  • Blood Tests - These tests are helpful to verify the levels of bilirubin chemical in the blood responsible for the yellow color of the bile. In case the tumor growth appears in the gallbladder, the bilirubin level goes high leading to the eyes to become white and skin to appear pale.

    Another blood test for gallbladder cancer detection is of tumor markers. Certain proteins such as CA 19-9 and CEA are caller tumor markers as they are found I the blood in case of cancerous growth in the body, but not specific to gallbladder cancer.

  • Computed Tomography - Computer Tomography (CT) scan is an advanced examination is an enhanced x-ray examination that produces many rotating pictures of the body while lying down. To make sure that no area is mistaken as tumor, and outlining the intestine, patient may need to drink certain liquid or receive intravenous contrast dye to help the intestine outlining.

  • Ultrasound Examinations - This is also termed ultrasonography and is eligible for people with abdominal pain and jaundice like symptoms. This test is performed via a wand-shaped instrument with the name transducer. This instrument releases sound waves that bounce back and echoes images of internal organs.

    There is another type of ultrasound that is more precise to check the internal organs more closely. Endoscopic ultrasound test is a technique to insert the transducer and place it in the body close to the gallbladder and liver. Such a test is vital to give clear idea about the tumor growth and the level of invasion. Also the test may be helpful to show any lymph node involvement.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - This test is similar to CT scan as it also produces images of the concerned organ and its soft tissues. However, the difference is that it does use radio waves and magnetic waves to produce the images.

    This test is useful to give a clear picture of the gallbladder surrounding organs and even in differentiating between a benign tumor growth from a malignant cancer growth.

  • Laparoscopy - This test is an invasive test and a small incision is made in the abdomen to insert a tubular instrument with a light to focus and laparoscope or video camera to capture images of the gallbladder and liver or other organs involved.

    This test can help in analyzing the stage of the cancer and the treatment plan. This test requires administration of general anesthesia and the test is performed at an operation theatre.

  • Angiography - This test is an imaging examination focused on the blood vessels' observation of the confined area. To get a clear picture of the related arteries, contrast dye is intravenously injected that highlights the outlines of the blood vessels.

    The test is helpful to analyze whether the blood flow has been restricted or affected due to the tumor growth in the area. Usually the dye is injected trough a catheter into an artery that leads to the gallbladder while the body is locally anesthetized.

  • Biopsy - This test is based on the removal of small tissues as sample from gallbladder or liver to check for any cancerous growth in the area. However, in case cancer is confirmed with other tests then, biopsy is avoided as it is suspected that disturbing the tumor through scratching or needle, it may scatter and spread to other areas.

  • Cholangiography - This test is confined to analyze the blockage of the bile ducts and decide upon the suitability of surgical removal of gallbladder to treat the cancer. There are different types of cholagography Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC), and Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).

There are various tests for gallbladder cancer diagnosis. There are certain cases, when the gallbladder cancer is detected during the treatment for gallstones. However, it is always beneficial that the disease is diagnosed early to offer the best life-expectancy.

Gallbladder cancer may spread soon to the other organs such as liver and bile duct and hamper the gallbladder survival rate. As soon as any suspecting symptoms how up in a patient diagnosis is the key to prompt treatment.

Diagnostic examinations are also vital to plan a treatment technique based on the level of tumor growth and the organs involved. The stage and invasion of the cancer is important to analyze the prognosis of the treatment and the survival chances of the patient.

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