The gallbladder is obviously helpful to our bodies, but it is not necessary to live. There are many people who go on to live normal lives after having their gallbladder removed.
Gallbladder cancer starts in this small, pear-shaped organ located under the liver behind the right lower ribs. In adults, the gallbladder is typically about 3-4 inches long and about an inch wide. The gallbladder concentrates and stores bile which is made in the liver. This bile helps our bodies digest fats in foods as they travel through the small intestine.
About 90 percent of gallbladder cancers are adenocarcinomas, which are cancers that start in glandular cells.
Papillary adenocarcinoma, which comprises about 6 percent of all gallbladder cancers, is a type of gallbladder adenocarcinoma that usually has a better prognosis than most other gallbladder adenocarcinomas due to the fact it is not as likely to grow into nearby lymph nodes or the liver.
Other types of cancer can develop in the gallbladder, including small cell carcinomas, adenosquamous carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and sarcomas, but these are not common.
Causes & Symptoms of Gallbladder Cancer
Researchers do not know the exact cause of most gallbladder cancers. However, there seems to be a link between these cancers and gallstones and inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis).
Approximately 80% of those with gallbladder cancer have gallstones or an inflamed gallbladder at diagnosis.
Studies have shown that people with a first-degree relative with gallbladder cancer have five times the risk of developing bladder cancer than those who do not have a relative who has had it. Because gallbladder cancer is so rare, even when the risk is increased by five times, it still remains very small.
Gallbladder cancer does not typically present with symptoms until the later stages of the disease. Gallbladder cancer symptoms include:
• Nausea and vomiting
• Abdominal pain
• Gallbladder enlargement
• Abdominal swelling
• Weight loss
• Loss of appetite
Who Gets Gallbladder Cancer
The American Cancer Society’s estimates for gallbladder cancer and nearby large bile ducts in the United States for 2016 are:
- About 11,420 new cases diagnosed: 5,270 in men and 6,150 in women
- About 3,710 deaths from these cancers: 1,630 in men and 2,080 in women
Of these, a bit less than 4 in 10 (about 4,000 cases) will be gallbladder cancers.
Unfortunately, gallbladder cancer is usually not diagnosed until it has advanced and causes symptoms, with only about 20% of all gallbladder cancers being found in the early stages before it has spread beyond the gallbladder.
Prognosis if You Have Gallbladder Cancer
For treatment purposes, doctors often use a simpler system based on whether or not cancer can likely be removed (resected) with surgery:
• Resectable cancers are those that doctors believe can be removed completely by surgery.
• Unresectable cancers have spread too far or are in too difficult a place to be removed entirely by surgery.
Generally speaking, most Stage 0, I, and II cancers and possibly some stage III cancers are resectable. Most Stage III and IV tumors are unresectable.
However, this also depends on other factors, such as the size and location of cancer and whether a person is healthy enough for surgery.
The 5-year relative survival rate for gallbladder cancer:
• Stage I – 50 percent
• Stage II – 28 percent
• Stage III – 7-8 percent
• Stage IV – 2-4 percent
Conventional medicine’s main types of treatment for gallbladder cancer include:
• Radiation therapy
• Palliative therapy
How to Prevent Gallbladder Cancer
There is no known way to prevent most gallbladder cancers. Many of the known risk factors for gallbladder cancers, such as age, ethnicity, and other risk factors, are beyond our control.
There are lifestyle decisions you can make to lower the risk of developing gallbladder cancers, including maintaining a healthy weight by being active and eating a healthy diet: vegetables; fruits; whole-grain bread, pasta, and cereals; fish; poultry; and beans. Also, you should limit processed meat and red meat.
Immune System Health
A healthy immune system remains your body's best defense. Not only is a weak immune system a major reason patients have cancer — and cancer itself can further weaken the immune system.
Beta glucans help regulate the immune system, making it more efficient. In addition, beta glucans stimulate white blood cells (lymphocytes) that bind to tumors or viruses and release chemicals to destroy it.
Beta Glucan has been approved in Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Taiwan as an immunoadjuvant therapy for cancer. In fact, helping with cancer is just the beginning with Beta Glucan. There have thousands of studies showing the product can protect against infections, lower your cholesterol, lower blood sugar, reduce stress, increase your antibody production, heal wounds, help radiation burns, overcome mercury-induced immunosuppression (like Thimerosal, used as a preservative in vaccines), help with diabetes, and even naturally prevent metastasis (or the spreading of your cancer).
Harvard Medical School suggests following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward keeping your immune system strong and healthy:
• Don't smoke.
• Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat.
• Exercise regularly.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Control your blood pressure.
• If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
• Get adequate sleep.
• Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
• Get regular medical screening tests for people in your age group and risk category.
More Information: Building the Immune System
Your diet plays a role in a healthy immune system. The top vitamins your immune system needs to perform include:
• Vitamin C — helps to repair and regenerate tissues and aids in the absorption of iron
• Vitamin E — a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight off infection
• Vitamin B6 — supports adrenal function and is necessary for key metabolic processes
• Vitamin A — aids immune function and helps provide a barrier against infections
• Vitamin D — modulates cell growth, promotes neuromuscular and immune function, and reduces inflammation
• Folate — key in development of red blood cells (a lack of Folate can make the body susceptible to cancer)
• Iron — helps your body carry oxygen to cells
• Selenium — slows the body's overactive responses to certain aggressive forms of cancer
• Zinc — slows the immune response and control inflammation in your body
Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research UK