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Gallbladder cancer

The gallbladder is a small organ under the liver which aid in digestion. Gallbladder cancer occurs when healthy cells in the gallbladder start to mutate and rapidly grow. These cells form a cancerous tumour and spread into the surrounding tissues and other parts of the abdomen.

Gallbladder cancer is a rare type of cancer and is mostly caused by adenocarcinoma, which starts in the glandular cells. It has a high recovery rate in the early stages. Mostly, it is diagnosed in the late stages when the recovery rate is often low.


In its early stages, gallbladder cancer doesn’t cause any visible discomfort or symptoms. When they do appear, they can easily be mistaken for other conditions. Therefore, one should pay close attention to the following signs:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Jaundice
  • Lump in abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Dark urine
    • If anyone has these signs or symptoms that are worrisome, they should consult with a doctor as soon as possible.


      In the majority of cases, cancer is caused by mutated cells. When cells start mutating and continue to live even when the healthy cells die. These cells then turn malignant and form a cancerous tumour. Cancer can also spread into the nearby part of the body, which can cause other types of cancers.

      Risk factors:

      While the most common cause of cancer is cell mutation, other factors can also increase its risks. Factors that are associated with the risk of gallbladder cancer are:

      • Gender as gallbladder cancer is more common in women.
      • Ageing as older people are more to gallbladder disorders and even cancer.
      • Chronic cholecystitis in which the gallbladder walls become calcified.
      • Gallbladder polyps, which can turn cancerous.
      • History of gallbladder disorders.
      • Primary sclerosing cholangitis, which causes inflammation in the bile ducts.


      Gallbladder cancer is harder to detect because there are no signs and symptoms in the early stages. Our doctors will perform a physical exam and assess the patient's medical history and symptoms. They will also perform diagnostic tests to determine the extent, stage and viable treatment option for gallbladder cancer. These tests can include:

      • Blood test to check liver function and to rule out other disorders.
      • Imaging tests, such as ultrasound, CT scan or MRI to examine the abdominal area and identify abnormal formations in the gallbladder.
      • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) to check for any blockage in the bile duct or liver.
      • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to check for blocked bile ducts by using an endoscope.
      • Biopsy to remove a tissue sample from the tumour and test it for cancer cells.


      Treatment for gallbladder cancer depends on various factors, such as cancer size, stage and position. Based on the diagnosis, possible complications and the patient’s preference, our doctors will recommend the most-effective treatment option for gallbladder cancer. These options include:


      In chemotherapy, our doctors will use a group of drugs to stop cancer from spreading. Cancer cells absorb the drugs faster than normal cells, thus slowing their growth. These drugs can be delivered through a vein or a catheter, depending on the stage of cancer.

      Radiation therapy:

      Our surgeon will use controlled radiation to damage or destroy the DNA of cancer cells. Our radiation oncologist will use a machine to direct the energy beams on the cancer cells. It can be used in combination with chemotherapy if surgery isn’t an option.


      Surgery is the most viable option to treat gallbladder cancer which involves removing cancer along with surrounding tissues. Our doctor may perform various types of surgery to remove cancer surgically, which are:

      Cholecystectomy is performed to remove cancer along with the gallbladder, surrounding tissues and nearby lymph nodes. Our doctors will make one incision in the abdomen to remove the cancerous tissues. The surgery can also be performed with a laparoscope which requires tiny incisions in the abdomen.

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