Gallbladder Cancer Treatment

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Gallbladder cancer is a rare type of cancer and as the other types of cancers is named after the organ affected by the cancer growth, i.e. gallbladder. Gallbladder is a tiny but an important organ of the digestive system. The function of gallbladder is to collect the bile from liver to bile duct connected to the liver from the gallbladder.

The bile duct is a pear-shaped sac that is meant to transport the bile to the small intestine. However, a cancerous growth in the bile duct or gallbladder may interrupt the flow of bile throughout the small intestine and cause digestive complications.

This cancer is mostly reported in the South and Central America, and race may also play vital role to decide the risk factor of the disease. Gallbladder cancer treatment is based on the degree of the cancer growth and the organs involved.

Prognosis for gallbladder is poor in case the cancer is discovered late and has metastasized to other organs, such as the liver. In case, early symptoms are significant and help to diagnose the problem, then survival rate can be improved.

Factors Affecting the Treatment:

There are several factors that may decide the type of treatment to be administered in the patient. Following are the most vital and significant factors to decide the treatment technique for gallbladder cancer:

  • The stage and level of the cancer is considered primary to decide the treatment technique. If the cancer has grown to other body parts as well, then it is difficult to treat and the disease offer poor prognosis.

  • The cancer can be categorized into two main types, such as resectable cancers and non-resectable cancers. Treatment of the disease depends upon the type of the cancer detected during microscopic observation.

  • Is surgical intervention helpful to treat the complete cancer and relieve the symptoms, is the next fact to be considered.

  • For a primary cancer growth at the first time, a different treatment technique may be selected, while for the recurrent growth of cancer a different treatment is required.

  • Other common factors affecting treatment options are the age and overall health of the patient.

Treatment Techniques:

Although, the disease is potentially difficult to diagnose due to absence of early symptoms, but if it is detected early then resectable treatment is a favorable option that aims at removal of the gallbladder. In case, cancer has spread to other organs and grown invasive, then unresectable treatment is offered to the patient. Following are the treatment techniques to choose:

  • Surgery - Surgical removal of complete gallbladder is the most preferred treatment if it is detected early. Cholecystectomy is the surgical intervention to manage the disease. However, there are surgeries to remove the gallbladder as well as a little dissection and part-removal from liver as well as the lymph nodes. There are a few different types of surgeries according to the condition:

    • Biliary Bypass Surgery - This surgery of gallbladder cancer is preferred in case, tumor blocks the small intestine and forces the bile to build up in the gallbladder, then the bile duct is cut and joined to the small intestine to allow a new pathway for the bile to pass through the small intestine.
    • Biliary Drainage - Patients who are not eligible for surgical biliary bypass can be treated with this technique that involves drainage of accumulated bile from the gallbladder into the small intestine. Before performing the surgery, location of blockage is confirmed via an x-ray of liver.
    • Stent Placement - A flexible tubular stent is fixed in the bile duct blocked due to tumor. The stent may be placed in a suitable way to drain the bile outside the body or into the small intestine.

  • Radiation Therapy - It is an effective treatment for invasive cancers and for those which have metastasized to nearby locations affecting the surrounding organs. Radiation therapy may be administered in two ways such as externally and internally.

    The names are self explanatory. External radiation therapy involves placing of the radioactive radiation releasing machine outside the body and directing the radiations to the affected area.

    Unlike external therapy, an internal radiation therapy directs the radioactive substance to the patient's body in the affected region. The radiation material is sent in the body through catheters, needles and wires.

    To make radiation therapy more effective, radiosensitizers are used. These are special drug that elevate the tumor cells' sensitivity to the radiations. This helps in destroying more tumor cells.

  • Chemotherapy - This therapy is also effective in treating invasive and advanced cancer growth in the body. Chemotherapy treatment technique uses cancer-killing drugs to treat patients.

    This therapy of gallbladder may aim at either destroying the cancerous growth or even arresting the growth and the cells' division. These drugs may be administered through mouth or intravenously.

    Systemic chemotherapy is a procedure that involves drug administration and allowing the drugs to go through the bloodstream and destroy the cancerous cells in the body.

    There are various drugs used popularly for the chemotherapy treatment, however, the selection of the drugs depends upon the degree of invasion and the stage of the cancer.

Gallbladder cancer is one of the rare forms of cancer, but it may occur and spread to become invasive in a short period of time. Gallbladder is an important organ involved in the digestive system of the body, and a cancerous growth affects the digestive system and also produces varied symptoms associated with it.

Although early diagnosis is difficult in the disease, if done correctly offers better prognosis. The outlook of gallbladder cancer treatment is not good as usually patients are not able to sustain and die within a year or so after the surgical or medical treatment.

In case, the cancer is not eligible for surgical gallbladder cancer care or radiation and chemo therapies, then injections of alcohol and painkillers in the nerves surrounding the gallbladder is effective to relieve pain in the patient.

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