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The gall bladder is a small pear-shaped organ that stores the bile produced by the liver to help digest the fats. Gall bladder cancer is a rare disease. The chances of cure are high when it is detected in the early stages.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to diagnose gall bladder cancer, as it often does not produce any signs and symptoms.


The signs and symptoms of gall bladder cancer are presented at the later or advanced stages, which includes:

•    Jaundice

•    Pain above the stomach

•    Pale stools

•    Fever

•    Bloating

•    Lumps in the abdomen

Causes and Risk factors

The exact cause of gall bladder cancer is not clear. However, many factors increase the risk of developing gall bladder cancer

Age: gall bladder cancer is common in the people who are above 70 years of age.

Gall stones: The chance of developing gall bladder cancer is high in people who had a history of gall stones or cholecystitis.

Polyps: Polyps are benign tumors that increase the risk of developing gall bladder cancer.

Obesity: Obese people have a greater risk of developing gall bladder cancer.

Family history: The risk of developing gall bladder cancer is slightly higher if the close relatives have a gall bladder cancer.


Laboratory studies that are helpful in diagnosing gallbladder cancer include:

  • Liver function test helps in checking the elevated levels of alkaline phosphate and bilirubin levels that are obvious in advanced stages of diseases.
  • CA 19-9 assay is a tumor marker test that gives the significance of elevated levels of CA 19-9 marker.
  • CEA assay gives the levels of carcinoembryonic antigen which is elevated in certain types of cancer
  • Ultrasound is performed to build the images of the gall bladder and the surrounding organs with the help of sound waves. The test is non-invasive and is performed with in less time.
  • Computed tomography (CT) is ideal for the patients who have upper abdominal pain, this test helps in understanding the spread of cancer to other parts of the body such as pelvis and abdomen.
  • MRCP (Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography) is a non-invasive type of scan that takes the images of the bile ducts. It is not commonly used.
  • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) or endoscopic retrograde cholangiography (ERCP) helps in the diagnosing gallbladder cancer by bile cytology.


The treatment options depend on numerous factors such as size and position of the tumor, stage of cancer, and general health.


Open cholecystectomy is a procedure performed in the early stages of gall bladder cancer to remove the gall bladder.

Radical cholecystectomy is a surgical procedure performed when cancer has metastasized to other surrounding areas.  Unlike open cholecystectomy, it removes the gall bladder, lymph nodes and the surrounding tissues and other surrounding parts that are affected by cancer.


Radiotherapy uses high-energy radiations to destroy the cancer cells. The radiations are given externally with the help of radiotherapy machine or internally by placing the radioactive material near the tumor. Radiotherapy is also useful for relieving the symptoms of cancer mostly in advanced stages.


Chemotherapy is used to destroy the cancer cells with the help of cytotoxic drugs. Chemotherapy can be given after the surgery if the surgery did not remove the cancer cells completely. It is also reserved for the patients in whom the surgery is contraindicated or in cases where the cancer has relapsed.

Stent insertion

In case of any blockage of the bile ducts, the doctor inserts a small stent during an ERCP. This helps relieve jaundice without surgery. The stents must be replaced every 3 to 4 months.

Coping and support

You may feel depressed and difficult while coping with the diagnosis of gall bladder cancer, physically and emotionally. It may panic and confuse you. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to be patient and get the apt information about your cancer type and check for the means and approaches on how to hit it.

Early detection of cancer and prompt surgical approach will surely lead to better outcomes



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