Gallbladder Cancer

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Gall bladder cancer is the cancer that begins in the gall bladder. Gall bladder is a pear-shaped organ situated in the right side of the abdomen, beneath the liver. It stores bile which is produced by the liver. Bile helps digest the fats in foods when it passes through the small intestine.

Gallbladder Cancer

Gall bladder cancer is very uncommon. It is not found until it has reached the advance stage. One out of five gallbladder cancers are diagnosed in the early stages.

The survival chance depends on the extent of the cancer spread in the body.

Types of Gallbladder Cancer

About 85 % of gallbladder cancers are adenocarcinomas. It is the type of cancer that begins in the cells which possess property as of glands. These cells line many surfaces of the digestive system and other parts of the body.

About 6 % of all gall bladder cancers are papillary adenocarcinoma in which the cells in the gall bladder appear as finger-like projections.

The rare types of cancer are squamous cell carcinomas, sarcomas and adenosquamous carcinomas.

The statistics estimates that gallbladder cancer is more common in women than men.

Causes of Gallbladder Cancer

The exact cause of the cancer is not known, but researchers have found certain risk factors that make a person to develop the cancer.

Gall stones:

They are the most common risk factor for gallbladder cancer. It is found that 3 out of 4 individual with gallbladder cancer have gall stones.


It is the chronic inflammation of gall bladder. It can lead to porcelain gallbladder in which the wall of the gallbladder becomes covered with calcium deposits.


Female are more prone to develop gallbladder cancer.


Obese people are more likely to get gall stones. Hence they are also at risk of developing the cancer.

Old age:

Elderly people over 65 years of age have increased chances of gallbladder cancer.

Family history:

A hereditary link has been found those with gallbladder cancer.

Signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer:

There are no early signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer.  They are usually developed late in advanced stages. However there are some common symptoms that have been found in the patients with late stage of gallbladder cancer.

  1. Pain in upper right side of the abdomen is the most common symptom found.
  2. Jaundice
  3. Nausea and vomiting
  4. Lump in right side of abdomen, wherein the cancer cells block the bile duct and the gallbladder swells to larger than normal.

Other less common symptoms:

  1. Loss of appetite
  2. Weight loss
  3. Fever
  4. Itching
  5. Dark urine
  6. Light-colored skin

Diagnosis of Gallbladder Cancer

Blood tests

  • Liver and gallbladder function tests to detect the level of bilirubin in blood. A high level of bilirubin suggests problem in gallbladder, bile duct or liver.
  • Liver function tests detect the levels of albumin, alkaline phosphatase, AST, ALT, and GGT which are abnormal in gallbladder and liver diseases.
  • Tumour markers such as CEA and CA 19-9 are high in gallbladder cancer. However these markers are not specific for gallbladder cancer.

Imaging tests

  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC)

Biopsy is the procedure where small part of tissue is removed and examined under microscope to detect the cancer cells.

Treatment for Gallbladder Cancer

Treatment measures that are adopted depend upon the type of gallbladder cancer, its extent and general health of the patient.

  • Cholecystectomy: Surgical removal of the gallbladder is the main treatment for gall bladder cancer.
  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used in some cases of cancer.