Gallbladder Cancer

The gallbladder is a small organ to the right of the liver, behind the lower ribs. The gallbladder stores bile, which helps with digestion. Most cancers in the gallbladder are adenocarcinomas, which means they begin in the cells of the glands. One type of adenocarcinoma of the gallbladder, called papillary adenocarcinoma, looks a bit like fingers under a microscope and is not likely to grow into the liver, lymph nodes or other tissues.

Gallbladder Cancer Risk Factors

The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 6,000 new cases of gallbladder cancer are diagnosed in the United States annually, in addition to about 4,000 cases of cancer in the nearby large bile ducts.

Risk factors include:

  • Having gallstones (small, crystalline formations of cholesterol that form in the gallbladder and bile ducts)
  • Being female
  • Being over the age of 65
  • Being obese
  • Having a family history of gallbladder cancer
  • Exposure to industrial and environmental chemicals

Signs & Symptoms of Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder cancer is especially difficult to diagnose because it causes few or no symptoms and tumors cannot be seen or felt during a routine physical exam. Detected early, the chances of a cure are quite good. However, the majority of gallbladder cancer are diagnosed at a fairly late stage and only about 1 in 5 cases are caught in the early stages.

See your doctor if you experience:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Prolonged abdominal bloating
  • Pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen
  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes

Gallbladder Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment

Gallbladder cancer diagnosed in its early stages is usually found when someone undergoes surgery to remove gallstones. Otherwise, it is generally not diagnosed until a late stage when the above symptoms arise. Treatment for gallbladder cancer will involve a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. 

Gallbladder Cancer Education, Screenings & Treatment at BayCare

BayCare is proud to offer a variety of cancer services throughout Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and all of Tampa Bay. Call (855) 314-8346 for a physician referral or find a doctor near you.