Have you been feeling an acute aching sensation on the upper right side of your tummy lately? Do you feel a loss of appetite for no apparent reason or are you experiencing problems with digestion? Do you eat too much of junk food or street food? You may be at risk of developing Gall Bladder Cancer (GBC), a notoriously lethal malignancy of your digestive system?
Doctors at Venkateshwar Hospital, Delhi, say that gall bladder cancer is being increasingly diagnosed over the last decade in India especially in North and Eastern parts of India. In India, GBC is most prevalent in the northern and northeastern states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Assam. But what is probably more alarming is the fact that this disease is showing a strong link to the female gender. It is twice more common in women than in men. Until even 10 years ago, GBC was a rare form of cancer in India. But presently, India registers 7- 9 cases per one lakh population. It is the commonest digestive system cancer in women in India.
“The gall bladder is a small pear-shaped organ located on the right side of abdomen below the liver. It helps in concentrating and storing digestive fluids. When the food consumed by us enters the small intestine, the gall bladder contracts and releases bile to help us to digest fats easily. Gall Bladder Cancer may present with abdominal pain or jaundice or only non specific symptoms such as an vague pain or discomfort in right upper abdomen” says Dr Anupam Saha Head of Dept of Gastro and Hepato- Pancreato- Biliary Surgery, Venkateshwar Hospital.
Gallstones are considered as important risk factor for gallbladder cancer. The prevalence of gallstones on Ultrasound examination was found to be 1.99% in males and 5.59% in females. Gallstones are often present in 60–90 % of patients with Gall Bladder Cancer.
Chronic infection of the gall bladder also predisposes to the development of gall bladder cancer.
Besides gall bladder stones and infection, lifestyle factors are also considered risk factors for this disease. These include obesity, lack of fruits, vegetables and fiber in your diet, smoking and consumption of alcohol.
“Obesity is probably the most significant risk factor when it comes to women in urban areas. Obesity is linked with significant metabolic and hormone abnormalities within the intestine as well as increased risk of gallstones, which in turn, raises the risk of malignancy. On the other hand, if your diet is low in fiber, vegetables and fruits, you are again at the risk of gall bladder cancer,”informs Dr Anupam Saha.
“Gall bladder cancer is very aggressive in nature and unfortunately many patients present to the hospital in advanced stages. The symptoms of Gall Bladder Cancer in initial stages may be non-specific with vague discomfort or pain over the right upper abdomen. Once the disease progresses to the advanced stage, jaundice or lump may be visible. When the disease is detected early, curative treatment of gall bladder cancer is possible. Curative treatments include surgical resection of the gall bladder along with part of the liver. In addition medications and radiotherapy may be advised.” adds Dr Anupam Saha.
Hence, it is very important to consult a Gastro Intestinal Surgeon, who may advise further tests, such as imaging and even a biopsy, if you are experiencing one or more symptoms of this disease.
Here are some tips to prevent gall bladder cancer:
- Eat a healthy diet with cereals and wholegrain instead of ready-made food. Eat fruits and vegetables daily and cut down on your fat intake.
- Limit intake of processed food and red meat if you are above 40.
- Indulge in some form of exercise daily and lead an active life.
- Do not ignore any basic symptoms such as pain or lumps in the abdomen. You need to take special precautions if you have had a hepatitis infection.
- Give up smoking and unhealthy lifestyle habits. It increases the risk of almost all types of cancers.