Gallbladder cancer is a relatively uncommon form of the disease in which malignant cancerous cells are formed in the tissues of the gallbladder. Gallbladder cancer occurrence shows unusual geographical and racial variations. It is mostly found in the people living in Central and South America, Central and Eastern Europe, Japan and Northern India. It is also found in some ethnic groups such as the Hispanics and Native Americans. In recent times, the incidences of gallbladder cancer are increasing in China and North and Central India at an alarming rate.

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ which lies immediately below the liver in the upper abdomen. The gallbladder’s function is to store bile – a digestive fluid produced by the liver to digest fat. It releases this bile when the food particles are being digested in the stomach and intestines. The gallbladder’s wall consists of 3 major layers of tissues, namely: mucosal (innermost) layer, muscularis (middle muscular) layer and serosal (outermost) layer. In between these three layers is a supporting connecting tissue. Primary gallbladder cancer starts in the innermost layer and grows through the outer layers as it develops.

The risk factors for gallbladder cancer include gender, age and obesity. This type of cancer is up to five times more common in women than in men. It is mostly known to affect people in the age groups of 50 and 60 years. Obesity is also known to increase the risk of the occurrence of gallbladder cancer.

Gallbladder cancer is hard to diagnose at an early stage. Noticeable symptoms of the disease include weakness, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, pain in the upper part of the abdomen, loss of appetite and jaundice. These symptoms may also be caused due to certain other medical conditions. Hence, a doctor should be consulted if such symptoms are observed.

Though gallbladder cancer is a rare form of cancer, it is the fifth commonest form of gastro-intestinal tumor (after colon, pancreas, stomach and oesophagus). Gallbladder cancer mostly begins in the innermost layer of the gallbladder. It gradually grows on to the outermost layer. If left untreated, it can spread to the bile duct, liver, duodenum and stomach. The disease is generally diagnosed at a later stage, making it hard to treat. The various treatment options include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of these. However, the most effective treatment for gallbladder cancer is the surgical removal of the gallbladder.