Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder cancer is cancer that begins in the gallbladder. Gallbladder cancer is uncommon. When gallbladder cancer is discovered at its earliest stages, the chance for a cure is very good. But most gallbladder cancers are discovered at a late stage when the prognosis is often very poor. Gallbladder cancer is difficult to diagnose because it often causes no specific signs or symptoms. Also, the relatively hidden nature of the gallbladder makes it easier for gallbladder cancer to grow without being detected.

What are the symptoms of gallbladder cancer?

Gallbladder cancer doesn't normally have symptoms until the cancer is well advanced. With more advanced cancers , it may have already invaded the liver or have spread to adjacent lymph nodes or even spread to other distant parts of the body. Gallbladder cancer signs and symptoms may include:

Most gallbladder cancers are diagnosed incidentally when a cholecystectomy is attempted with the presumptive diagnosis of acute cholecystitis. If the diagnosis is suspected before surgery, a computerized tomogram (CT scan) will confirm the diagnosis. Further cancer staging may then be necessary to help alert Dr Cooper if and where the cancer has spread to, outside of the gallbladder.

What are the possible treatment options for gallbladder cancer?

Treatment will depend on the stage of the disease. If the cancer is confined to the gallbladder, a cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder) might be curative. In more advanced disease, a local liver resection will be added to the cholecystectomy. Once the cancer has metastasised (spread to distant organs) surgery will no longer be curative, but may be of value to improve quality of life. Chemotherapy and / or radiotherapy might be necessary to relieve the symptoms of cancer (palliation) if unresectable or metastatic diseases is present. If jaundice is present, a metal stent can be placed to relieve the jaundice.