Can Gallstones Cause Gallbladder Cancer?
One of the most significant patient concerns after being diagnosed with gallstones is whether these stones can lead to gallbladder cancer. The short answer is that we don’t have any evidence to suggest that average gallstones cause gallbladder cancer. However, studies have shown that there may be a very slight increase in the incidence of gallbladder cancer in patients that have very large gallstones – those greater than 5cm.
How Common Is Gallbladder Cancer?
Gallbladder cancer is not very common. However, it is very aggressive and does not have many early outward signs. Many patients do not get a proper diagnosis early on, meaning that it often metastasizes or spreads to other parts of the body.
Fortunately, some cases of gallbladder cancer are found early, yet incidentally, after a cholecystectomy or gallbladder removal due to symptomatic gallstones. Whenever the gallbladder is removed, we send it to pathology for review.
What if I Have Gallbladder Cancer?
Gallbladder cancer is treated much the same way as other cancers and often requires the coordination of your general surgeon, who will remove the gallbladder and any surrounding structures that may be affected. Your oncologist will work with you to develop a coordinated treatment plan that may include chemotherapy and radiation.
Most importantly, you should follow your oncologist and surgeons’ advice to manage gallbladder cancer best.
Do We Screen for Gallbladder Cancer?
There is no formal screening program because of the relative rarity of gallbladder cancer versus other malignancies. Instead, patients who experience symptomatic gallbladder disease and subsequent gallbladder removal will have their gallbladders examined.
If you have any questions about gallbladder cancer or gallstones, or if you are experiencing pain or discomfort after meals that seems to originate in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, under your rib cage, we encourage you to visit your primary care physician or come to us for a complete evaluation.
Gallbladder surgery or cholecystectomy is a straightforward procedure with low risk. It is also the only effective curative procedure for symptomatic gallbladder disease.
We encourage you to schedule a consultation with our office to learn more.