What is gall bladder cancer?
Gall bladder cancer happens when normal cells in the gall bladder change into abnormal cells and grow out of control. The gall bladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that is tucked under the liver. The gall bladder stores bile, a fluid that helps the body break down fat.
Another gall bladder condition called ‘Gallstones’ occurs in people with gallbladder cancer.
What are the symptoms of gall bladder cancer?
Early on, gall bladder cancer might not cause any symptoms. In many cases, gall bladder cancer is found unexpectedly when:
- A doctor does surgery to treat a person’s gallstones. Gallstones can cause symptoms similar to those of gall bladder cancer.
- A doctor does imaging tests of the belly for another reason. Imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.
When gall bladder cancer causes symptoms, they can include:
- Belly pain, especially in the upper right side or upper middle part of the belly
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weight loss
- Jaundice, which is when the skin and white part of the eye turn yellow
All of these symptoms can also be caused by conditions that are not gall bladder cancer. But if you have these symptoms, tell your doctor or nurse.
Is there a test for gall bladder cancer?
Yes. To check for gall bladder cancer, your doctor will do an imaging test. Imaging tests can include an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI scan.
What is cancer staging?
Cancer staging is a way in which doctors find out if a cancer has spread past the layer of tissue where it began, and, if so, how far. The right treatment for you will depend a lot on the stage of your gall bladder cancer and your other medical problems.
How is gall bladder cancer treated?
Gall bladder cancer is usually treated with 1 or more of the following:
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the term doctors use to describe a group of medicines that kill cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells.
Gall bladder cancer can sometimes be cured with treatment. This is most likely when the cancer is found at an early stage. But, often, gall bladder cancer is not found at an early stage. If your gall bladder cancer cannot be cured, your doctor can do other treatments to help with your pain, jaundice, or other symptoms.
What happens after treatment?
After treatment, you will be examined ofen by your doctor to see if the cancer comes back. Follow-up tests usually include imaging tests.
You should also watch for the symptoms listed above. Having those symptoms could mean your gall bladder cancer has come back. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any symptoms.
What happens if my gall bladder cancer comes back or spreads?
If your gall bladder cancer comes back or spreads, you might have more radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both.
What else should I do?
It’s important to follow all of your doctor’s instructions about visits and tests. It’s also important to talk to your doctor about any side effects or problems you have during treatment.
Getting treated for gall bladder cancer involves making many choices, such as what treatment to have. Always let your doctors and nurses know how you feel about a treatment. Any time you are offered a treatment, ask:
- What are the benefits of this treatment? Is it likely to help me live longer? Will it reduce or prevent symptoms?
- What are the downsides to this treatment?
- Are there other options besides this treatment?
- What happens if I do not have this treatment?