7 Signs of Gallbladder Cancer You Might Ignore

Updated: Sep. 27, 2019

Your gallbladder is located under the right side of your liver, and it stores the necessary bile you need to digest fat. You may not think twice about this little organ, but here are some hidden gallbladder cancer symptoms you should keep in mind.

pores on the skin of the face. Cleansing the face skin
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Your skin is yellowing

The term jaundice is used to describe the yellowing of your skin and eyes. If you notice an odd tint, you should contact your doctor. There are lots of non-cancerous reasons you can have a change in skin color. But in rare cases, a tumor in your gallbladder causes your bile to build up, resulting in this yellow coloration, according to the American Cancer Society. The group stresses that gallbladder cancers (and cancers in the nearby large bile ducts) are exceedingly rare. In 2019, there will be about 12,360 new cases diagnosed and about 3,960 people will die from the disease.

 Woman suffer from stomach pain

You feel persistent pain in your stomach

You may think your abdominal pain is simply indigestion or period cramps. And you are probably correct. However, in rare cases, discomfort in the upper-right abdomen region, when combined with other symptoms, can be a sign of gallbladder cancer. Here’s what oncologists wish you knew about preventing cancer.

woman over head feeling nausea stomach pain
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You feel like you have a stomach bug

Nausea and vomiting alone are not hidden gallbladder cancer symptoms, but when combined with other signs, like upper abdominal pain and jaundice, they can indicate a problem with your gallbladder. If you develop stomach flu-like symptoms combined with a yellowing of the whites of your eyes you should definitely see your doctor.

woman bloated holding stomach
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Your stomach feels larger

Abdominal bloating is common and can have many causes. However, if you experience an excessive amount of abdominal bloating, in addition to other symptoms, it can also be a sign of gallbladder cancer. A thorough physical exam focusing on your belly and checking for any lumps, tenderness, or fluid build-up (in the presence of advanced disease) can be the first step in figuring out if you have gallbladder disease including gallbladder cancer. Here are six warning signs that you are having a gallbladder attack.

Doctor talking to the patient about menopause and treatment in future.

You have gallstones

A gallstone is a small pebble-like mixture of bile, cholesterol, and calcium that can hinder your gallbladder’s functioning, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.  The vast majority of people with gallstones never develop gallbladder cancer but up to 4 out of 5 people with gallbladder cancer have gallstones when diagnosed. Bear in mind that gallbladder cancer is so rare that this amounts to a minor, minor subset of people with gallstones. Don’t miss these other common cancer symptoms women shouldn’t ignore and cancer signs that men overlook.

Top view of woman feet wearing pink sneakers on bathroom weight scale. Fit, dieting, fat loss concept.

You’re losing weight (without more dieting or exercising)

It is normal to lose your appetite every so often. However, if you notice your appetite refuses to come back, and you are dropping pounds, it might be a good idea to check in with your doctor. Losing your desire to eat meals can be a gallbladder cancer symptom, although there are many other reasons this can happen too. Learn about other possible reasons for unexplained weight loss.

Family having a Christmas dinner

You have a family history of gallbladder cancer

Risk of gallbladder cancer seems to run in families. Still, the overall risk is still low even if you do have a family history because gallbladder cancer itself is so rare. The American Cancer Society stresses that most gallbladder cancers occur in people without a family history of the disease. Still, it is important to remember that family history is always a silent player in your future health. Still, when it comes to your genetic risk, make sure you know these cancer myths you can safely ignore.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest