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How Serious is Gallbladder Cancer?

How Serious is Gallbladder Cancer?

What is Gallbladder Cancer?

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ in the upper abdomen under the liver. Gallbladder cancer develops when malignant (cancer) cells proliferate there.

There are four tissue layers covering the outside of your gallbladder:

  • Internal layer (mucosal layer).
  • The layer of muscles.
  • The layer of connective tissue.
  • The topmost layer (serosal layer).

The mucosal layer is where gallbladder cancer starts, and it spreads from there. After gallbladder removal, it is commonly found by chance or not identified until a late stage.

Stages of Gallbladder Cancer 

Whether or not cancer has spread (metastasized) beyond of its initial (primary) place is one of the major concerns. Your healthcare professional will give the diagnosis a number (zero through five) to represent the degree of spreading. The more the number increases, the more cancer has spread throughout your body. This procedure is staging. The gallbladder cancer progression phases are:

Stage 0 

(also known as carcinoma in situ) describes cancer that has only spread to the gallbladder's mucosal layer.

Stage 1

Cancer has reached the layer of the muscles.

Stage 2

Cancer has moved from the layer of muscles to the layer of connective tissue.

Stage 3

The tumor has affected the liver, nearby organs, the outer layer (serosal), or possibly the lymph nodes.

Stage 4

When the malignancy affects more than three neighboring lymph nodes, nearby blood vessels, and/or distant organs.

Symptoms of Gallbladder Cancer 

Early detection of gallbladder cancer is challenging due to the absence of visible signs and the similarity of the symptoms that do exist to those of other, less serious conditions. Furthermore, it is more challenging to locate the malignancy due to its placement within the gallbladder. The following  are the possible signs of gallbladder cancer :

  • Jaundice (yellowed skin and yellowed whites of your eyes).
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain above the stomach area
  • Bloating
  • Fever
  • Abdominal lumps
  • Unexplained weight loss

Diagnosis of Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder cancer diagnosis happens usually after it has spread since there are rarely early signs or symptoms, and those symptoms match those of other disorders. The diagnosis happens when you need to have your gallbladder removed or have gallstones removed.

Furthermore, your doctor will check you and enquire about your medical history if they suspect you may have gallbladder cancer. Then, your provider will do additional tests, such as:


It is a technique of examination of tissues or cells under a microscope to check for malignancy.


A surgical technique in which your belly is punctured with a tiny incision and a laparoscope, a thin, lighted tube, is introduced to allow a view inside your body.

Lab Tests 

  • Blood chemistry: Determines the concentrations of particular types of compounds in your blood, including any that might be cancerous.
  • Liver Function Test: Performing a liver function test helps detect whether your liver has been impacted by gallbladder cancer since it measures the levels of specific compounds generated by your organ.
  • Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test: Calculates CEA levels (a tumor marker released by both healthy and cancerous cells).
  • CA 19-9 assay: It checks the amount of the tumor marker in your blood. Healthy and cancerous cells both release this chemical. Higher levels might be a sign of pancreatic or gallbladder cancer.

Imaging Tests 

  • Abdominal ultrasonography: Utilizes sound waves to produce images of the organs inside your abdomen.
  • CT (or CAT) scan: A type of X-ray that produces finely detailed images of inside organs.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): X-ray method helps to capture images of the bile ducts. These channels may become more constricted due to gallbladder cancer.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): It is a process that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce images of the inside of the body.

Treatment Options for Gallbladder Cancer

The diagnosis before it has spread to other organs in order to treat gallbladder cancer is important. While, the treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. The various treatment methods include:


A cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of your gallbladder and surrounding tissue. A portion of the liver next to the gallbladder, as well as lymph nodes nearby, may also be removed by the surgeon.


Drugs in chemotherapy helps to kill rapidly proliferating cells, especially cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be also be given orally, intravenously, or both ways through a vein in your arm.

If there is a chance that some gallbladder cancer cells may survive the operation, chemotherapy can be advised. In the event that surgery is not an option, it can also be used to control the malignancy.

Radiation treatment

High-powered energy beams, such as X-rays and protons, in radiation therapy helps to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may occasionally be added if cancer could not be entirely removed during surgery for gallbladder cancer. If surgery is not an option, radiation therapy can potentially manage this cancer that is causing pain.

Targeted drug therapy

The targeted drug therapies concentrate on particular deficiencies in cancer cells. Targeted drug therapies can kill cancer cells by damaging these deficiencies. And so, for those with advanced gallbladder cancer, targeted drugs can be an option.


It is a drug therapy that supports your immune system's ability to fight cancer. Cancer cells create proteins that make it difficult for immune system cells to recognize the cancer cells as dangerous, so your body's immune system that fights disease may not attack cancer. Immunotherapy affects that process in order to work. And so, may help to treat advanced gallbladder cancer.


The seriousness of gallbladder cancer depends upon the stage of cancer and the condition of the patient and the treatment options available. The seriousness varies for every individual. And so, with the help of timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment, a cure is possible. 

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