February is Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month: Let’s Get Educated. 

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Gallbladder Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month Background Illustration

By Gastro MD 

February is Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month. 

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 9,500 new gallbladder and bile duct cancer cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S. These cancers are grouped together because of the connecting systems involved. The primary job of bile ducts is to allow bile to go from the liver and gallbladder into the small intestine. 

Gallbladder cancer starts in the inner layer of the gallbladder, most commonly in the cells that make and release fluids and spread into the muscle. The exact cause of this disease is unclear. However, risk factors include gender, age, history of gallstones, inflation of the bile ducts, and other gallbladder diseases. Gallbladder cancer is more common in women.  

Bile duct cancer forms in the cells in the bile duct network, but not all bile duct tumors are cancerous, such as bile duct hamartomas and adenomas. Bile duct cancer is categorized based on its location in the body. 

Spotting Their Signs and Symptoms  

Gallbladder and bile duct cancers rarely present any signs or symptoms in their early stages, which is why taking a proactive approach to your health, discussing your family medical history with your physician and having regular screenings is so very important! 

Common symptoms of gallbladder cancer include:  

  • Jaundice 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Bloating 
  • Lumps in the abdomen 

Bile duct cancer symptoms can include: 

  • Jaundice 
  • Intensely itchy skin 
  • Dark urine 
  • White or light-colored stools 
  • Fatigue 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Unintentional weight loss 

How are These Cancers Diagnosed?  

The following are the most common tests and procedures used to detect, diagnose and stage gallbladder and bile duct cancer: 

  • Physical exam and health history 
  • Laboratory tests of tissue, blood and urine 
  • Liver function tests 
  • Ultrasound exam 
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) 
  • Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) 
  • Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) 
  • CA 19-9 tumor marker test  
  • CT scan 
  • Biopsy procedures – laparoscopy, Percutaneous Transhepatic Cholangiography (PTC), Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) 

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