Gallbladder Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing & Treating Gallbladder Cancer

At Mercy, we’ll help you find the right treatment for gallbladder cancer based on your symptoms and needs. You’ll have a team of Mercy experts at your side to help you with your physical and emotional well-being. 

Diagnostic Tests

Mercy gastroenterologists, pathologists and radiologists use advanced diagnostic testing methods to detect gallbladder cancer, evaluate the extent of the disease/determine staging and develop your treatment plan. Some tests used to detect gallbladder cancer may include the following:

  • Lab tests - blood work tests for abnormal levels of bilirubin and other markers.
  • Imaging tests - Imaging tests such as diagnostic ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs and PET scans may be performed for a variety of reasons such as determining how far cancer has spread, determining the best course of treatment or looking for cancer recurrence. 
  • Cholangiography & biopsy - a cholangiography may be performed during a gallbladder biopsy to identify and locate an obstruction of the bile duct.

Gallbladder Cancer Treatment Options

Mercy’s team of cancer experts is dedicated to helping you through treatment. Your team will come from a variety of disciplines to provide a well-rounded perspective on how to care for you. Your treatment plan for gallbladder cancer will depend on several factors, including the stage of your cancer, whether it has spread and overall health. Based on a thorough discussion with your doctor, you may be given one or more of the following treatments.

Gallbladder Surgery

Surgery is the best treatment for early-stage gallbladder cancer, though many cases aren't detected early enough for surgery. Your gallbladder helps your body digest food, but your digestive system can work without it. Your surgeon will help you understand what to expect before, during and after your operation. Depending on the type of gallbladder cancer, your doctor may recommend one of the following surgeries for cancer.

  • Cholecystectomy - A cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the entire gallbladder.  This operation is only performed when the cancer is only in the gallbladder and hasn't spread to other areas. 
  • Extended (Radical) Cholecystectomy - An extended, or radical, cholecystectomy is the removal of the entire gallbladder in addition to the removal of liver tissue, regional lymph nodes and additional tissues. This is the most common surgical treatment for gallbladder cancer.
  • Palliative Surgery - When gallbladder cancer has spread too far to be completely removed, palliative surgery can help relieve or prevent symptoms. 

Surgical Approaches

Mercy gastrointestinal surgeons are skilled in using the latest surgical oncology procedures and techniques such as:

  • minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery
  • robotic surgery
  • endoscopic surgery

Surgery may be the only part of your cancer treatment plan, however, it's common for radiation and chemotherapy to be used as well.

Radiation Therapy 

Our radiation oncologists offer advanced radiation therapy for gallbladder cancer to precisely target cancerous tumors. Radiation therapy uses a beam of x-rays or other particles of energy to focus on a specific area of your body. The radiation can focus on your gallbladder to eliminate cancer cells in that area without affecting other areas of your body.


To prevent gallbladder cancer from returning, chemotherapy (also referred to as “chemo”) may be part of your treatment plan. Chemotherapy for gallbladder cancer uses drugs given by mouth or delivered directly into your veins to fight cancer cells throughout the body.

Chemo 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.

Gallbladder Cancer Resources

Mercy offers a variety of support & resources for gallbladder cancer patients to nourish your mind and spirit while we fight your cancer.