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Gallbladder cancer


Disease: Gallbladder cancer Gallbladder cancer
Category: Tumors

Disease Definition:

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of the abdomen, just beneath the liver. It stores bile, which is a digestive fluid produced by the liver. Gallbladder cancer is cancer that begins in the gallbladder.


Someone's chance for a cure is very good in case their gallbladder cancer is discovered at its earliest stages. However, because most gallbladder cancers are discovered at a late stage, its prognosis is usually quite poor.


Because gallbladder cancer usually doesn't cause any signs or symptoms, it is difficult to diagnose. Yet another factor that allows gallbladder cancer to grow without being detected is the relatively hidden nature of the gallbladder.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


Some of the signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer could be:


  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Itchiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
  • Abdominal pain, particularly in the upper right part of the abdomen.
  • In case someone experiences any worrisome signs or symptoms, they should see a doctor.


The exact cause of gallbladder cancer is still not known, however, it is known that gallbladder cancer forms when changes or mutations are developed in the DNA of  healthy cells of the gallbladder, causing the cells to grow out of control and continue living when normally other cells would die. In time, these accumulating cells could cause the growth of a tumor beyond the gallbladder, which could later spread to other areas of the body (metastasize).


Gallbladder cancer that begins in the cells that line the inner surface of the gallbladder is called adenocarcinoma because of the way the cancer cells appear when examined under a microscope.





Depending on the patient's overall health, their preferences and the stage of the cancer, they could find out the available gallbladder cancer treatment options. Removing the gallbladder cancer is the initial goal of treatment; however, some other therapies could help control the spread of the disease and keep the patient as comfortable as possible in case the cancer could not be removed.



In case someone has an early-stage gallbladder cancer, surgery could be an available option. Some of these options are:

Surgery to remove the gallbladder:

When an early gallbladder cancer is confined to the gallbladder, it will most likely be treated with an operation called cholecystectomy, in which the gallbladder is removed.

Surgery to remove the gallbladder along with a portion of the liver:

Sometimes, a gallbladder cancer that has extended beyond the gallbladder and into the liver is treated with an operation, in which the gallbladder is removed along with a portion of the liver and bile ducts surrounding the gallbladder.


After a successful operation, it is not clear whether gallbladder cancer will return or not even with additional treatments. However, some studies have shown that with additional treatment the cancer may not return. Because of this, after the surgery, the patient may be recommended chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of both. However, because only a few studies have tested these additional treatments, they are still controversial.



When gallbladder cancer has spread beyond the gallbladder, surgery can't cure it. Instead of surgery, other treatments are used in order to relieve signs and symptoms of the cancer and make the patient as comfortable as possible. Some of these treatments include:

Procedures to relieve blocked bile ducts:

Blockages in the bile ducts could be caused by advanced gallbladder cancer, which could cause further complications. However, there are some procedures that could help relieve the blockage, such as placing a hollow metal tube called a stent in a duct in order to hold it open or surgically rerouting bile ducts around the blockage; this procedure is called a biliary bypass.

Radiation therapy:

In this therapy, high-powered beams of energy are used in order to kill cancer, such as X-rays.


This is a drug treatment in which chemicals are used to kill the cancer.


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