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Gallbladder Cancer

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Gallbladder Cancer Overview

Gallbladder cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the gallbladder.

Because the gallbladder sits right beneath the liver, tumors that begin in the gallbladder often spread into the liver. Half of all liver and biliary passage tumors are tumors of the gallbladder.

Many people who have gallbladder cancer have nonspecific symptoms.

Often, gallbladder cancers are discovered during surgery for removal of gallstones or a dysfunctional gallbladder.

Surgeons may see the cancer during gallbladder surgery, or pathologists may detect the cancer when they review the tissue that was removed during surgery.

Diagnosing Gallbladder Cancer

Symptoms of gallbladder cancer

Many people who have gallbladder cancers have nonspecific symptoms. Some have symptoms that are similar to those of advanced primary liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Other symptoms, sometimes associated with gallbladder tumors include:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Intolerance of fatty foods
  • Pain in the right upper abdomen
  • New onset jaundice (yellowish coloring of the skin that results from excess bile)

Testing for gallbladder cancer

In addition to a physical exam, your doctor may order imaging and blood tests to evaluate:

  • The size of the tumor
  • The tumor's location within the liver
  • Its proximity to major hepatic blood vessels of the liver
  • Whether there are metastatic tumors or nodules

Imaging studies

  • CT scans of the liver, chest, and pelvis — to exclude or confirm the presence of tumors that have spread from another area
  • Bone scan — to exclude or confirm the presence of cancer in the bone

Blood tests

Blood tests will:

  • Evaluate your general health
  • Measure liver function

Other tests

If you will be treated by chemotherapy, you may also need to have:

  • An Audiogram (hearing test)
  • A Multi Gated Acquisition Scan (MUGA) heart scan toevaluate function and test for heart failure

Gallbladder Cancer Treatment

The UPMC Liver Cancer Center's multidisciplinary team offers several treatment options for people with gallbladder cancer.

Liver surgery (resection)

Depending on the size and location of your tumor, and the general health of your liver, you may be a candidate for surgical removal of the tumor(s).

If the tumor is located in one part of the liver, it can be surgically removed, or resected.

Liver resection, either minimally invasive (laparoscopic) liver surgery or traditional (open) liver surgery, offers the best chance for cure or long-term s urvival.

UPMC’s liver surgeons are among the most experienced in the United States at minimally invasive liver surgery, which is performed through three or four sma ll incisions in the abdomen.

We perform this technique, whenever possible, to reduce:

  • Pain
  • Scarring
  • Length of hospital stay
  • Recovery time

Therapies for gallbladder cancer

If your tumor is too large to be removed by surgery, the UPMC Liver Cancer Center offers innovative therapies, such as radiofrequency ablation and transarterial chemoembolization, to:

  • Help shrink the tumor so surgery is possible
  • Manage your liver disease and extend your life

Contact the UPMC Liver Cancer Center

To schedule an appointment, or for more information, call the UPMC Liver Cancer Center, toll-free, at 1-855-745-4837.


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