Gallbladder Cancer Surgery

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Gallbladder cancer is a cancer that usually begins in the inner lining of the gallbladder that is a supportive organ for digestion. The organ lies beneath the liver and is responsible for storing and concentrating the bile. Bile is a fluid required for fat metabolism.

This is an unusual cancer and around 3000 new cases are reported by this disease in the U.S alone. However, South America is a geographical area in America that has seen this disease as a common cancer type, especially in elderly women.

Amongst the risk factors of the disease, gallbladder is vital as many cases of cancer of the gallbladder are seen with a history of gallbladder polyps. Polyps are small lesions or abnormal growth on the wall of the gallbladder.

Gallbladder cancer surgery is a treatment option for the disease to offer better quality of life and improved prognosis of the disease treatment. Surgical option has many other types, which may be selected according to the stage of the cancer and also the level of invasion of the cancer.

Surgical Treatment for Gallbladder Cancer:

Any treatment option including surgical treatment needs a close administration of the case to decide the state and the involvement of other organs due to cancer. There are several surgical procedures to opt for in gallbladder cancer.

Types of Surgeries:

The types of surgeries are based on type of care to offer to the patient. There are basically two types of surgeries for gallbladder cancer patient:

  • Curative Surgery - Such a surgery, as the name suggests aims at curing the cancer condition, by various surgical procedures. The surgery is decided on the basis of the imaging examinations' results and the patient's overall health. Along with treating the cancer growth, the aim of the surgery is to offer better quality of life to the patient and also improve the outlook of the treatment.

    A curative surgery may involve resectable surgery that aims at the removal of the cancer from the gallbladder. However, a very small percentage of gallbladder cancers are concluded as resectable while diagnosed. An unresectable surgery is the one, when the cancer cannot be completely removed as the area affected is surrounding the organs and lymph nodes.

  • Palliative Surgery - This type of surgery is the surgery opted for the advanced stage of cancer, where the prognosis of the treatment are too low and the main focus moves from curing the disease to offer relief from the symptoms of gallbladder cancer.

    Hence, the focus of this treatment is not on completely curing or removing the cancer, but towards increasing the life-expectancy of gallbladder patient with least symptoms of the disease.

    Unlike cervical cancer, patients with gallbladder cancer's advanced stages also may be eligible for surgical treatment. Oncologist may suggest the appropriate surgery from the given list as per the analysis of the patient condition:

Types of Curative Surgeries:
  • Simple Cholecystectomy - This is a surgery usually opted as a treatment for gallstones and usually involves a procedure to completely remove the gallbladder. However, in case a cancerous growth is suspected in the gallbladder, then a complete removal of the gallbladder is avoided.

    If the cancer is in its early stage (stage 0), then it is non-malignant and hence, complete removal of the gallbladder offers better prognosis and around 70% people receiving the surgical treatment are cured.

  • Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy - This surgery is also effective for people diagnosed with initial stage of cancer. This surgical method uses a laparoscope and so it is termed as laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

    The procedure involves a small incision to be made in the patient's body in the abdomen to place the laparoscope, a tubular instrument with a light to focus and also a video camera that captures the pictures of the area affected and display the non- invasive growth to be removed.

  • Open Cholecystectomy - This surgery involves large incision in the abdomen of the patient and removal of the gallbladder. However, if the tumor growth is suspected to be malignant, then doctors prefer not to opt for this surgery as extra growth of cancerous cells is suspected due to the surgery.

  • Extended/Radical Cholecystectomy - This is the most enhanced type of cholecystectomy, and is opted in the advanced cancer of the gallbladder. This is a complex operative procedure that is required to cure the recurrence of gallbladder cancer, in case it is suspected that cancer may reappear even after the complete removal of the gallbladder.

    The surgical procedure may involve removal of part of the liver, common bile duct and lymph nodes supporting the intestines and liver functioning.

Types of Palliative Surgeries:

  • Biliary Stent - This surgical option is opted in metastasized cancer and involves a stent (a plastic or metal tube) placement in the duct to restrict its blockage and facilitate bile drainage to the small intestine. Repetitive stent placement also may be required to avoid its blockage over time.

  • Biliary Bypass - This is a complex surgery that aims at the bile drainage from the liver and the gallbladder. Hence, the blockage of the bile duct following the cancer growth is overcome through this surgery.

Gallbladder cancer is a treatable cancer in case it is diagnosed at early stages, which rarely happens. Hence, the prognosis of the patients receiving the treatment is very poor. Gallbladder cancer surgery has various procedures to address the problem considering different criteria.

The surgery may aim to either completely cure or offer palliative care to gallbladder cancer patient. A close analysis of the stage and spread of the cancer is done to decide the appropriate treatment.

Some of the patients receiving the treatment in the early stages can be completely cured following a complete removal of the gallbladder. However, for the patients diagnosed with scattered cancer growth are eligible for palliative surgeries offering relief from the disease symptoms.

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