By the end of 2018, gallbladder and bile duct cancer will have been responsible for the death of nearly 4,000 Americans. Interestingly, women are more predisposed to developing one of these diseases, as they have a 66% higher risk in this regard. Due to low prevalence, lack of reliable screening methods and the absence of perceivable symptoms during early stages, 1 in 5 cases are diagnosed when cancer has already spread to other organs, which decreases survival rate dramatically. Accordingly, when cancer reaches the lymph nodes, patients have 7% chances of living for 5 years or longer. If cancer spreads to distant organs in the body, the 5-year survival rate drops to 4% or less.
Since lack of awareness concerning early symptoms is a major reason why people receive late diagnoses, it is important to know the most common and the most insidious signs of gallbladder cancer, which are the following:
- pain in the upper right area of the abdomen
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- unexplainable weight loss
- lumps in the abdomen
- jaundice – yellowing of the skin and eyes
- dark urine
- gallbladder enlargement, which your doctor can detect
- itchy skin
- greasy stools
It is also worthy of note that gallbladder cancer, as well as cancer of the bile duct, while rare diseases, are very aggressive, generally metastasizing over a short period of time. This is why, if you have a history of occupational asbestos exposure or, even worse, a history of asbestos exposure and one or more of the risk factors above, we strongly advise you to keep a close eye on your health and seek medical attention immediately in the event you notice worrisome symptoms.