The gallbladder is a tiny, muscular, membranous sac used by our body to store and concentrate bile, a fluid given to the gallbladder from the liver; bile aids in digestion in our small intestine. The gallbladder is pear-shaped and can hold up to about 1.7 fluid ounces (50 mL) maximum. When its muscular wall contracts, bile is discharged via the bile duct into the duodenum, the first area of our small intestine. The bile duct itself is made up of three branches shaped like a “Y.”
There are a variety of diseases that could develop in our gallbladder; they tend to develop if some sort of artifact blocks the duct(s) through which bile flows. Most often gallstones, or hardened bile deposits, are to blame. There are, however, several other issues that could block our bile ducts, including but not limited to parasitic infestations and injury during gallbladder surgery.
Another disease that could befall our gallbladder is, of course, gallbladder cancer. Cancer can develop in the gallbladder itself or large bile ducts found in its vicinity. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that in 2020, doctors will diagnose about 12,000 new cases of cancer in the gallbladder or large bile ducts in the United States; of these newly diagnosed cancers, about 40% will be found in the gallbladder itself. Additionally, the ACS estimates that about 4,000 individuals will pass from gallbladder or large bile duct cancer this year.
Gallbladder cancer doesn’t tend to present symptoms until it is advanced. Because of this, only about 1 in 5 gallbladder cancers are diagnosed early, when the cancer is still concentrated in the gallbladder.
One key way to improve your chances of surviving gallbladder cancer is early detection. The ACS says that the likelihood you’ll survive five or more years with gallbladder cancer compared to those who don’t have it increases by 60% if it’s detected at the localized stage, when your cancer is still concentrated in your gallbladder.
The Ezra abdominal, torso, and full-body scans screen your gallbladder for cancerous and precancerous states, as well as other conditions. If you’re interested in learning more, you may do so here.