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FEB 17th 2014

What You Should Know During Gallbladder And Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month

FEB 17th 2014
What You Should Know During Gallbladder And Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month

Yes, folks, February is indeed Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month. And sometimes awareness starts with a simple question, “What should you know these rare types of cancer?”

You may not know much about your gallbladder or bile ducts. But you should. That’s what this cancer awareness month is for.

So here’s a few basic questions and answers to help you get started.

What Is Your Gallbladder And What Does It Do?

Your gallbladder is a four-inch-long organ connected to your liver. It’s a storage unit for bile, a substance that helps you break down and digest fats. The liver produces the bile. The gallbladder stores it. And the bile flows from your liver to your gallbladder to your small intestine through your bile ducts. Got that?

gallbladder and bile duct cancer awareness

Your gallbladder is located in your upper right abdomen, so if it starts to hurt, that’s where you’ll feel the pain.

The most common gallbladder problem people have is gallstones – little crystals made from hardened cholesterol and bile. These stones keep bile blocked up in the gallbladder and cause pain, inflammation and jaundice. Gallstones are also a major risk factor for gallbladder cancer.

What Causes Gallbladder And Bile Duct Cancer?

No one can say for sure what causes rare types of cancer, but the top risk factors for gallbladder cancer are:

  • Gallstones
  • Gallbladder polyps (small growths which may or may not be cancerous)
  • Obesity
  • Older age
  • Female gender

The American Cancer Society notes that bile duct has several unique and specific risk factors for cancer. You may have a greater chance of contracting bile duct cancer if you have any of these liver or bile duct conditions:

  • Bile duct stones (like gallbladder stones, but smaller)
  • Cirrhosis (liver damage, often from heavy drinking)
  • Choledochal cysts (bile-filled sacs attached to the bile duct)
  • Liver fluke infection (a bile duct parasite from poorly cooked fish)
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis (inflammation and scarring in the bile duct)

Some other risk factors for bile duct cancer include inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), hepatitis A or hepatitis B infections, diabetes, drinking, smoking and a family history of bile duct cancer.

Do People Get These Cancers Often?

According to the American Cancer Society, about 10,000 people contracted gallbladder or bile duct cancer in 2013. Fortunately, both of these are fairly rare types of cancer. But it’s still a good idea to be informed!

For more information and health observances, here's a complete list of cancer awareness months.

Talk to us in the comments! What questions do you have about gallbladder and bile duct cancer? What steps are you taking to stay healthy this year?

(Images via Choose Hope and WebMD.)