From Filix Kencana, MD, a medical oncologist and hematologist with OHC

January 31, 2019

February is Gallbladder Cancer Awareness Month, and as always, my colleagues and I are committed to providing you with information on the latest treatments as well as how to lower your risk for developing cancer.

The good news about gallbladder cancer is that it’s rare. The bad news is that approximately one-third of the people diagnosed with gallbladder cancer are expected to die from it.

The American Cancer Society estimated that in 2018, 1.7 million new cancer diagnoses would occur. Of those, only 12,190 would be gallbladder cancer, but 3790 were expected to die from it. That’s because gallbladder cancer is difficult to discover and shows no symptoms until it’s advanced to late stages.

What causes gallbladder cancer and how can you prevent it?
Risk factors for gallbladder cancer may include a personal or family history of gallstones, older age, being female, having an American Indian, Alaska Native, or black ethnicity, obesity, poor diet, being exposed to things that can cause cancer, and having long-lasting infection and inflammation in the gallbladder.

There’s no known way to prevent most gallbladder cancers, primarily because many of the risk factors are beyond our control, but there are things you can do that might help lower your risk: Eat healthy, manage your weight and exercise.

Eating healthy.
The National Foundation for Cancer Research say approximately 30-40% of cancer diagnoses could be prevented by modest diet and lifestyle changes. This number increases to 90% for certain cancers.

So, what should we eat? The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research issued cancer prevention recommendations as part of a report first published in 2007. Their findings were based on a review by an international panel of scientists of studies related to the connection between cancer risk, food, nutrition, and physical activity. The following are some key dietary recommendations based on that report and other cancer research.

  • Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Get your fill of dietary fiber.
  • Eat real soy products — not processed ones
  • Limit meat, alcohol, and dairy consumption
  • It’s not just what you eat — it’s how much: Obesity is a significant risk factor for several types of cancer.

Your doctor or a dietitian teach you how to eat in order to avoid conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, and to lower your risk for cancer.

Maintain a proper weight.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for health. In addition to lowering the risk of many different cancers, it also lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Talk with your doctor or an exercise professional to determine what your healthy weight is. Once your reach that weight, remember to keep your weight the same, you need to burn the same number of calories as you eat and drink.

Everyone knows that exercise is important for good health. Now, a new study from researchers at the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute links exercise with a lower risk of 13 specific types of cancer. This is significant because previous studies have investigated the link between physical activity and cancer risk, and results were inconclusive for most cancer types.

This new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine, found that leisure-time physical activity was associated with a significantly decreased risk of cancer of the colon, breast, uterus, esophageal, liver (which is connected to your gallbladder), stomach, kidney cancers, and myeloid leukemia. In addition, physical activity was strongly associated with a decreased risk of multiple myeloma, and cancers of the head and neck, rectum, bladder, and lungs.

If you aren’t already getting regular exercise or physical activity, let this be the day you start! There is so much information about how, when and where to exercise to help you get started. And your doctor is also an excellent person to speak with for guidance.

What about gallstones?
Gallstones are very common, and gallbladder cancer is quite rare, even in people with gallstones. Most doctors don’t recommend people with gallstones have their gallbladder removed unless the stones are causing problems. This is because, in most cases, the possible risks and complications of surgery probably don’t outweigh the possible benefit. Still, some doctors might advise removing the gallbladder if you have long-standing gallstone disease.

If you do develop gallbladder or bile duct cancer.
In the unfortunate event you do develop gall bladder or bile duct cancer, one of the most beneficial reasons for choosing OHC for your care and support is that we offer the most cancer clinical trials in the region. For example, we currently have an open trial testing a new drug for patients with advanced/metastatic or surgically unremovable cholangiocarcinoma (a cancer that arises from the cells within the bile ducts). It’s a promising new treatment that’s only available through a clinical trial – and OHC is making it available to you. If you would like more information about gallbladder or bile duct cancer, or clinical trials, please call OHC at 1-800-710-4674 or visit

Sources: OHC, National Foundation for Cancer Research, American Cancer Society, National Institutes of Health

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