February is the month of Bile Duct Cancer and Gallbladder Awareness.
Unlike other, more frequent cancers such as colon, breast, and prostate cancer, gallbladder and bile duct cancer, which is relatively rare, has a general lack of awareness among the general public. Therefore, the purpose of Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month is to get people talking about these diseases and increase awareness about them.
It is surprising to know that Northern Eastern India along the Gangetic belt has the second highest incidence of these cancers in the world!!!So it becomes very important to understand the early signs and symptoms of this disease.
The gallbladder is a tiny organ with bile ducts that connect it to the liver. Its job is to store bile, a chemical produced by the liver to help in dietary fat digestion. Although the gallbladder is a vital part of digestion, it is possible to survive without it. And bile ducts are small tubes or pipes that carry this bile from the liver to the gall bladder.
When cancer starts in the gallbladder, it usually begins in the innermost layers and then spreads to the surrounding tissues over time. Because the gallbladder is a small organ hidden mainly by the liver, this type of cancer can be challenging to diagnose. As a result, it is critical for everyone to understand the risk factors and symptoms of gallbladder and bile duct cancer and to report anything odd to a physician as soon as possible.
While the exact origins of gallbladder cancer are uncertain, a history of gallstones is thought to be the primary risk factor. These tiny crystals, comprised of hardened bile and cholesterol, can develop within the gallbladder and obstruct bile flow. This might result in discomfort, irritation, and jaundice. Although this illness raises the chance of gallbladder cancer, it's crucial to remember that gallstones are much more frequent than gallbladder cancer.
Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice), abdominal pain, indigestion, heaviness/pain in abdomen and fever are all symptoms of gallbladder and bile duct cancer. Gallbladder cancer symptoms also include nausea and vomiting, bloating, and abdominal lumps.(in advanced stages)
Gallbladder cancer starts in the organ's inner, or mucosal, layer, typically in cells that produce and discharge mucus and other fluids. This subsequently spreads to the muscle and outer layers of the organ into the abdomen.
According to researchers, those who have the following profile are more likely to acquire gallbladder cancer:
Females : Gallbladder cancer is more than twice as common in women.
Older age : More than two-thirds of those diagnosed are 65 or older. However, it can occur in younger ages as well
Obesity :Gallbladder cancer patients are frequently overweight or obese. Obesity is also linked to gallstones, which could explain the connection.
Gallstones : At least three out of every four persons diagnosed with gallbladder cancer have gallstones.
Porcelain gallbladder :This is a condition in which calcium deposits build up on the gallbladder's wall. This is not a very common condition.
Choledochal cysts are bile-filled :sacs attached to the common bile duct, transporting bile from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine.
Bile duct anomalies : The bile ducts, which carry pancreatic juice into the small intestine to aid digestion, occasionally undergo reflux (flow backwards). Gallbladder cancer is more likely in people who have this abnormality.
Gallbladder polyps : A growth that protrudes from the inner gallbladder wall's surface.
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) :Bile duct inflammation and scarring.
Industrial and environmental pollutants : Exposure to chemical compounds known as nitrosamines while working in the rubber and textile sectors may raise the risk of gallbladder cancer.
Typhoid : People who are persistently infected with salmonella (the bacterium that causes typhoid) or who are carriers of the disease are at an increased risk of gallbladder cancer though this is not really proven with research.
Chronic colitis, certain liver illnesses, and infection with the worm parasite Clonorchis’s Sinensis, sometimes known as the Chinese liver fluke, are risk factors for bile duct cancer.
Since most people have few, if any, recognized symptoms in the early stages of both types of cancer, and they are very non specific….they are generally discovered at later, more advanced stages.
Dr. Aditi Aggarwal has worked in radiation oncology for ten years, treating patients with thoracic cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, bone and soft tissue cancer, gynecological cancer, breast cancer, and neurological cancers.
As a medical doctor, Dr. Aditi Aggarwal holds an MBBS degree from Lady Hardinge Medical College Delhi, a MD degree in radiation oncology from VMMC and Safdarjang Hospital Delhi, as well as a post-doctoral diploma in cancer research from Catalyst Clinical Sciences in Pune.
Cancer is usually classified into four stages, with stage 0 being the earliest stage and stage IV being the most advanced. The stage of a cancer is an important factor in determining the prognosis and the best treatment options. Here's a brief overview of the different stages of cancer:
Stage 0: This is the earliest stage of cancer, and it refers to cancer that is still in its original place and has not spread to other parts of the body. It is also known as carcinoma in situ.
Stage I: This stage means that the cancer is still small and has not spread to other parts of the body. It may be treatable with surgery or other local treatments.
Stage II: At this stage, the cancer is larger and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes. It may be treated with surgery and/or radiation therapy, or other systemic treatments such as chemotherapy.
Stage III: This stage means that the cancer has spread to nearby tissues or organs and/or to distant lymph nodes. Treatment may involve a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and/or systemic treatments such as chemotherapy.
Stage IV: This is the most advanced stage of cancer, and it means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, bones, or brain. Treatment at this stage is typically palliative, meaning that it aims to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life, rather than cure the cancer.
It's important to note that the staging of cancer can vary between different types of cancer and different systems used to classify the stages. Your healthcare provider can give you more information specific to your situation.
There is no single vaccine that can prevent or cure all types of cancer. However, some vaccines can help prevent certain viral infections that can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can help prevent HPV-related cancers such as cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancer.
Additionally, some cancers can be treated with a type of immunotherapy called cancer vaccines, which help stimulate the body's own immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. These vaccines are still in the experimental stage and are only available through clinical trials.
However, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of developing cancer, such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco products, and getting regular cancer screenings. Your healthcare provider can give you more information on how to reduce your risk of cancer.
The symptoms of cancer can vary depending on the type and part of the body of cancer, as well as its stage. Some common symptoms of cancer include:
It's important to keep in mind that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, and not all of them are present in all cases of cancer. If you are experiencing any symptoms that are new or persist for a long time, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider to determine the cause and get appropriate medical attention. Early detection and treatment of cancer can often lead to better outcomes.
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