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Gallbladder Cancer - Symptoms, Cause & Treatment | Dr. Anand Prakash


Gallbladder Cancer - Symptoms, Cause & Treatment | Dr. Anand Prakash


Gallbladder cancer refers to the abnormal growth of the cells inside the gallbladder. It is one of the most common forms of cancer in North India. The cases of patients with this form of cancer are more in the places located in the Indo-Gangetic plain than anywhere else in India. The primary reason for it is that the carcinogen responsible for causing gall bladder cancer is commonly found in this region.


The primary symptom of gall bladder cancer is a continuous and sharp pain in the stomach, especially on the right side. Individuals with this type of cancer do not feel hunger or appetite. They also start losing weight quickly, have jaundice, and back pain, or may feel fatigued.


These symptoms are pretty common in most individuals for other medical conditions. However, it is imperative to see a doctor if these symptoms last for more than three months.


Symptoms of Gallbladder Cancer

The common symptoms of gallbladder cancer include the following:

  • Pain in the upper right area of the abdomen
  • Inexplicable weight loss
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Yellowing of the eyes and the skin (jaundice)


Causes of Gallbladder Cancer

Gallstones in the bladder constitute the common cause of gallbladder cancer. Gallstones resemble pebbles and they consist of cholesterol. When not diagnosed in time, it causes chronic inflammation at the subsequent stages. This takes the form of gallbladder cancer.


Diagnosis of Gallbladder Cancer

Just like other forms of cancer, some tests help diagnose gallbladder cancer. Your doctor will recommend the following tests for it:

  • Blood tests: If you start displaying the symptoms of gall bladder cancer, your doctor will recommend a blood test to know about the functioning of the liver in your body. This way, they will get to know the actual reason for the signs and symptoms.
  • Imaging tests: Ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computerized tomography (CT) are the three imaging tests that will help create an image of the gallbladder in your body.


Determination of the state of Gallbladder Cancer

Knowing the current extent of gallbladder cancer is imperative for your doctor to decide the course of action for its treatment. Your doctor will do it immediately if the test results indicate that you have gallbladder cancer.


To know about the extent of your gallbladder cancer, your healthcare professional will use the following tests and procedures:

  • Exploratory surgery: It is imperative for your doctor to find out if your gallbladder cancer has reached other organs. For this purpose, they will use the laparoscopy test which involves an incision in the abdominal region. After making the incision, they will put a camera to examine the surrounding organs.
  • Tests to find out bile duct blockages: Next, your doctor will use an injection to inject dye to see where it goes. It helps find out the blockages in the body. The two other tests that your doctor may recommend are endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and resonance cholangiography.
  • Extra imaging tests: To further make certain that your gallbladder cancer is localized and not spread to other parts of the body, your doctor may recommend an MRI scan, a CT scan, or other such scans.


Depending on the tests and their results, your doctor will come to know about the stage of cancer of the infected gall bladder. Based on the test results, they will attribute the current stage of cancer to one of the four stages. Its early stage is an indicator of the fact that it is localized. Stages 3 and 4 indicate that it has spread to the adjoining organs.


Gallbladder Cancer Treatment

The treatment of gallbladder cancer will depend on its state, your overall health, and your preferences. Your doctor’s primary objective will be to separate the cancerous part. If it is not feasible or possible, they will look for other options.


The common treatment options for gallstones in the bladder or gallbladder cancer include the following:

  • Surgery: This option is for those who are in the early stage of gallbladder cancer. Depending on the test results, your surgeon may either remove the gallbladder or also a portion of the liver along with it.
  • Chemotherapy: Doctors use the process of chemotherapy, which involves using drugs for killing cancer cells when it is difficult for a patient to undergo surgery. Chemotherapy can be administered either in the form of an injection or a pill.
  • Radiation therapy: When surgery is not a feasible option for the treatment of gallbladder cancer, doctors recommend radiation therapy. This process involves killing cancer cells with the help of high-powered energy beams like protons and X-rays. Sometimes doctors merge it with chemotherapy for achieving their desired outcomes.
  • Targeted drug therapy: If cancer cells have specific weaknesses, your doctor may recommend targeted drug therapy to block them. They will use targeted drugs for this process. Your healthcare professional will conduct a few tests to decide on the targeted drugs to be used for the treatment of your gallbladder cancer.
  • Immunotherapy: This form of treatment involves a drug and it is administered to those who have advanced gallbladder cancer. It encourages the immune system of the body to fight cancer. Generally, cancer cells produce a protein that makes it next to impossible for the immune system to detect it as dangerous. The drug used in immunotherapy works by interfering with this process.



Timely diagnosis of gallbladder cancer is the key to treating it. Normally, individuals who are diagnosed with gallbladder cancer early on have better chances of survival. After the removal of the cancerous part, they can live for several years. However, those who get to the end stage of gall bladder cancer can survive for a maximum lifespan of up to 6 months.


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