Gallbladder Cancer


Gallbladder cancer is not very common. But when it does strike, the consequences can be serious. Most people with gallbladder cancer are not diagnosed until an advanced stage. This means their cancer has started to spread.

But there is good news. When gallbladder cancer is caught early, it’s highly treatable. You should talk to your doctor right away if you have unusual abdominal pain or other problems. He or she can help you get to the bottom of your symptoms—and confirm or rule out cancer.

What is Gallbladder Cancer?

Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ. It sits beneath your liver, on the right side of your abdomen. It stores a substance called bile, which helps your body digest the fats in food.

If cells within your gallbladder begin to grow abnormally, they can form a cancerous tumor. Most gallbladder cancer starts in the cells that line the inside of the gallbladder.

Gallbladder cancer may not cause symptoms early on. And when symptoms do appear, they may be mistaken for other gastrointestinal problems. Signs of gallbladder cancer include:

  • Abdominal pain, especially on the upper right side of your abdomen
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes)
  • Lumps on the right side of the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

Gallbladder Cancer Treatment at Mercy

Your treatment plan will depend on several factors. These include what stage your cancer is in and whether it has spread. Based on a thorough discussion with your doctor, you may have one or more of the following treatments:

  • Chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy may be “systemic,” meaning the medicine travels throughout the entire body. Or it can be injected into the main artery in the liver, so it reaches the gallbladder more directly.
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy). Even though your gallbladder helps your body digest food, you can live without it. If your cancer has spread, your surgeon may also need to remove part of your liver, and nearby bile ducts or lymph nodes.

If you have gallbladder cancer, you’ll find yourself in capable and compassionate hands at Mercy. As a faith-based health care organization, we see ourselves being called to a higher standard. We focus on treating the whole person, meaning we nourish your mind and spirit while we fight your cancer.

Symptoms of Gallbladder Problems

Dr. Angela Buonagura

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