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Gallbladder cancer and bile duct cancer are rare, which is why it’s so important to learn about the signs and symptoms and help spread awareness. Here at Wheels For Wishes, we are helping Make-A-Wish with our car donation program, but we also love to help spread awareness about different types of medical conditions. If you don’t know much about gallbladder or bile duct cancer, February is a great time to learn more and share the knowledge so that more cases can be found and prevented.

What Is The Gallbladder?

Most of us don’t give much thought to the gallbladder, or even know where it is in the body. The gallbladder is a pear shaped organ, approximately 4-inches long, that is located just below the liver in the upper right side of the abdomen. Its function is to store the bile that the liver produces. Bile aids digestion by breaking down fats.

The gallbladder plays an important role by storing bile, but it is an organ that people can live without. If the gallbladder needs to be removed, the body can still store its extra bile in the bile ducts. The liver usually functions the same without having the extra storage space of the gallbladder.

Cancer is a rare common gallbladder problem. Gallstones are by far the most common affliction to affect the gallbladder. Gallstones are small, hard deposits of bile and cholesterol. They can form when there is an excess of cholesterol or bile salts build up. While gallstones can cause pain and other problems on their own, they are actually a risk factor for gallbladder cancer as well.

Risk Factors And Causes Of Gallbladder Cancer

Having had gallstones is the most common indicator of being at risk for gallbladder cancer. In fact, three out of four people diagnosed with gallbladder cancer also have gallstones. This doesn’t mean that having gallstones will always indicate cancer – gallstones are very common, whereas gallbladder cancer is very rare. In addition to having gallstones, the common risk factors for gallbladder cancer are:

  • Gallbladder polyps. These small growths made up of cholesterol buildup are usually harmless, but on rare occasion can be small, cancerous tumors.

  • Being of Native American or Mexican American descent.

  • Being over the age of 65. Gallbladder cancer risk increases with age and the average age at the time of diagnosis is 72.

  • Being female. Women are twice as likely to develop gallbladder cancer.

  • Having a family history of gallbladder cancer.

  • Having an abnormality in the bile ducts.

  • Being overweight or obese.

  • Having a porcelain gallbladder, a condition in which the gallbladder walls harden with calcium deposits.

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