February Is Gallbladder Cancer Awareness Month

February 02, 2015

Rare but deadly form of cancer has five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent when identified in advanced stages

PHOENIX (February 2, 2015) – February is recognized as Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month and Arizona Oncology, a practice in The US Oncology Network, would like to remind both men and women to speak with their healthcare providers about the risk factors and symptoms, as well as treatment, for the disease.

Approximately 10,650 new cases of gallbladder cancer will be diagnosed this year, with 4,960 in men and 5,690 in women. Unfortunately, because most gallbladder cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage when the disease has already spread beyond the gallbladder, nearly 3,630 individuals will lose their lives.

Only about one of five gallbladder cancers is found in the early stages, when the cancer has not yet spread beyond the gallbladder. The five-year survival rate for gallbladder cancer, if caught in early or in stage one, is 80 percent. If detected in an advanced stage (three or four), that survival rate drops to a low two to seven percent. Gallbladder cancer is among the top 25 cancer-related deaths in Arizona.

Gallbladder cancer is difficult to find early. The gallbladder is deep inside the body, so early tumors cannot be seen or felt during routine physical exams. At this time there are no blood tests or other tests that can reliably detect gallbladder cancers early enough to be useful as screening tests. Because of this, most gallbladder cancers are found only after the cancer has grown enough to cause signs or symptoms.

Scientists have found that individuals who fit the profile below are more likely to develop gallbladder cancer:

  • Females – In the U.S., gallbladder cancer occurs more than twice as often in women. Gallstones and gallbladder inflammation are important risk factors for gallbladder cancer and are also much more common in women than men.
  • Older age – More than 2 out of 3 people with gallbladder cancer are 65 or older when it is found.
  • Obesity – Patients with gallbladder cancer are often overweight or obese. Obesity is also a risk factor for gallstones, which might help explain this link.
  • Ethnicity and geography – In the U.S., the risk of developing gallbladder cancer is highest among Mexican Americans and Native Americans.
  • Family history – A history of gallbladder cancer in the family seems to increase a person’s chances of developing this cancer, but the risk is still low because this is a rare disease.

 In addition to the above demographic considerations, many risk factors are related in some way to chronic inflammation (irritation and swelling) in the gallbladder. They are:

  • Gallstones – At least 3 out of 4 people with gallbladder cancer have gallstones when they are diagnosed.
  • Porcelain gallbladder – This is a condition in which the wall of the gallbladder becomes covered with calcium deposits.
  • Choledochal cysts – These are bile-filled sacs that are connected to the common bile duct, the tube that carries bile from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine.
  • Bile duct abnormalities – Ducts that flow pancreatic juice into the small intestine to help digestion sometimes experience reflux (flow backward) into the bile ducts. People with this abnormality are at higher risk of gallbladder cancer.
  • Gallbladder polyps – A growth that bulges from the surface of the inner gallbladder wall.
  • Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) – Inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts.
  • Industrial and environmental chemicals – Working in the rubber and textile industries, and exposure to chemical compounds called nitrosamines may increase the risk of gallbladder cancer.
  • Typhoid – People chronically infected with salmonella (the bacterium that causes typhoid) and those who are carriers of the disease are more likely to get gallbladder cancer.

 In addition to being aware of the risk factors of gallbladder cancer, Arizona Oncology reminds all men and women to speak with their healthcare providers about this disease during annual exams.

Arizona Oncology plays a major role in the battle against gallbladder cancer by providing easy access to a full range of advanced cancer care services. Our medical and radiation oncologists and their staff provide chemotherapy, injections, infusion services, radiation therapy and diagnostic imaging services in a setting that allows patients to remain close to their homes and their support network of family and friends. As a result, patients access the best possible treatment with the least amount of disruption to their daily lives.

Our affiliation with The US Oncology Network, one of the nation’s largest cancer treatment and research networks, allows us to enhance patient access to the latest advances in therapies, clinical research and technology. In fact, The US Oncology Network has participated in the development of more than 300 investigational products including 51 FDA-approved cancer therapies, which represent nearly one-third of cancer therapies approved by the FDA to date.

To learn more about the treatment of gallbladder cancer at Arizona Oncology, visit ArizonaOncology.com or call 888-972-CURE.

About Arizona Oncology

Arizona Oncology is one of the largest medical groups in Arizona. With more than 60 practicing physicians devoted exclusively to providing comprehensive, compassionate and high-quality cancer care, Arizona Oncology specializes in Medical, Gynecologic, and Radiation Oncology, Hematology, Stem Cell Transplant, Research, Genetic Risk Assessment and patient ancillary programs. The physicians and their staff treat patients in many communities throughout the state including: Chandler, Cottonwood, Deer Valley, Flagstaff, Glendale, Green Valley, Nogales, Oro Valley, Phoenix, Prescott Valley, Safford, Scottsdale, Sedona, and Tucson.

Arizona Oncology believes it is beneficial to provide cancer therapies in a community setting, close to patients' homes and support systems. The physicians are supported by a talented clinical team sensitive to the needs of cancer patients and their caregivers. For more information, visit ArizonaOncology.com.

Arizona Oncology is united in healing with The US Oncology Network, one of the nation’s largest networks of integrated community-based oncology practices dedicated to advancing high-quality, evidence-based cancer care. As an affiliate of The US Oncology Network, Arizona Oncology is united with 1,000 physicians nationwide. Arizona Oncology participates in clinical trials through US Oncology Research, which has played a role in 51 FDA-approved cancer therapies, nearly one-third of all cancer therapies approved by the FDA to date. For more information, visit www.usoncology.com.

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