The month of February is dedicated to the awareness of Gallbladder and Bile Duct cancer. Gallbladder cancer is not usually found until it has become advanced and causes symptoms. Only about 1 of 5 gallbladder cancers is found in the early stages, when the cancer has not yet spread beyond the gallbladder.
A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. Others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed. Scientists have found several risk factors that make a person more likely to develop gallbladder cancer. Many of these are related in some way to chronic inflammation (irritation and swelling) in the gallbladder.
Some risk factors for gallbladder cancer include:
- Gallstone: Pebble-like collections of cholesterol and other substances that form in the gallbladder and can cause chronic inflammation.
- Porcelain gallbladder: A condition in which the wall of the gallbladder becomes covered with calcium deposits.
- Female gender: Gallbladder cancer occurs more than twice as often in women.
- Obesity: Patients with gallbladder cancer are more ofter overweight or obese than people without this disease.
- Older age: The average age of people when they are diagnosed with gallbladder cancer is 72.
- Ethnicity and geography: The risk of developing gallbladder cancer is highest among Mexican Americans and Native Americans.
- Choledochal cysts: Bile-filled sacs that are connected to the common bile duct, the tube that carries bile from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine.
- Abnormalities of the bile ducts: Some people have an abnormality where these ducts meet that lets juice from the pancreas reflux into the bile ducts.
- Gallbladder polyps: A growth that bulges from the surface of the inner gallbladder wall.
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis: People with PSC have an increased risk of cancer of the gallbladder and bile ducts.
- Industrial and environmental chemicals: Some studies in lab animals have suggested that chemical compounds called nitrosamines may increase the risk of gallbladder cancer.
- Typhoid: People chronically infected with salmonella and those who are carriers of the disease are more likely to get gallbladder cancer than those not infected.
- Family history: A history of gallbladder cancer in the family seems to increase a person’s chances of developing this cancer.