Gallbladder cancer is a rare cancer that is usually diagnosed late due a to lack of early signs and symptoms. It is sometimes found when the gallbladder is checked for gallstones or removed. Explore the links on this page to learn more about gallbladder cancer treatment and clinical trials.

Gallbladder Cancer Treatment

  • Gallbladder cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the gallbladder.
  • Being female can increase the risk of developing gallbladder cancer.
  • Signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer include jaundice, fever, and pain.
  • Gallbladder cancer is difficult to detect (find) and diagnose early.
  • Tests that examine the gallbladder and nearby organs are used to detect (find), diagnose, and stage gallbladder cancer.
  • Certain factors affect the prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

Gallbladder cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the gallbladder.

Gallbladder cancer is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the tissues of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that lies just under the liver in the upper abdomen. The gallbladder stores bile, a fluid made by the liver to digest fat. When food is being broken down in the stomach and intestines, bile is released from the gallbladder through a tube called the common bile duct, which connects the gallbladder and liver to the first part of the small intestine.

The wall of the gallbladder has 4 main layers of tissue.

  • Mucosal (inner) layer.
  • Muscle layer.
  • Connective tissue layer.
  • Serosal (outer) layer.

Primary gallbladder cancer starts in the inner layer and spreads through the outer layers as it grows.

Signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer include jaundice, fever, and pain.

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by gallbladder cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
  • Pain above the stomach.
  • Fever.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Bloating.
  • Lumps in the abdomen.

Gallbladder cancer is difficult to detect (find) and diagnose early.

Gallbladder cancer is difficult to detect and diagnose for the following reasons:

  • There are no signs or symptoms in the early stages of gallbladder cancer.
  • The symptoms of gallbladder cancer, when present, are like the symptoms of many other illnesses.
  • The gallbladder is hidden behind the liver.

Gallbladder cancer is sometimes found when the gallbladder is removed for other reasons. Patients with gallstones rarely develop gallbladder cancer.

Stages of Gallbladder Cancer

  • Tests and procedures to stage gallbladder cancer are usually done at the same time as diagnosis.
  • There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.
  • Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.
  • The following stages are used for gallbladder cancer:
    • Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ)
    • Stage I
    • Stage II
    • Stage III
    • Stage IV
  • For gallbladder cancer, stages are also grouped according to how the cancer may be treated. There are two treatment groups:
    • Localized (Stage I)
    • Unresectable, recurrent, or metastatic (Stage II, Stage III, and Stage IV)

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.

Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:

  • Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
  • Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.

What is Cancer?

  • Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

  • Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the risk of getting cancer. This can include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing.

  • Cancer can cause many different symptoms. Most often these symptoms are not caused by cancer, but by benign tumors or other problems. If you have symptoms that last for a couple of weeks, your doctor will do a physical exam and order tests or other procedures to find out what is causing your symptoms.