Tired of hearing about the coronavirus? Well, it’s Gallbladder Cancer Awareness Month! It’s a relatively rare cancer affecting about 20,000 Americans a year. If you’re one of the 20,000 it is quite a big deal. Slightly more women than men are affected. Symptoms mimic gallstones with jaundice, abdominal pain, and nausea. The kicker is the weight loss. Gallstones usually don’t cause weight loss.
While gallstones are a risk factor for gallbladder cancer (4 of 5 people with the cancer have gallstones), the vast majority (>99.9%) of people with gallstones will never get gallbladder cancer. Other risk factors include gallbladder polyps over 1 cm in size and a “porcelain” gallbladder which is a calcified organ due to chronic inflammation.
If caught early it is survivable. Sadly it’s not usually caught early. Treatment is removal of the gallbladder followed by chemotherapy for the spread that might have occurred.
It is important to be aware of these lesser occurring cancers. Not that we ought to be afraid of every little thing that can get us, but rather out of compassion for those 20,000 people every year that are going to be affected. Those numbers add up and if we can have some empathy and understanding for their condition, it might be helpful for them.