A woman holding her abdomen. A drawing of her liver, pancreas and gallbladder is laid over the top to highlight where they reside.

What Is Gallbladder Cancer?

Gallbladder cancer is a form of abnormal cell growth that occurs in the gallbladder, a small organ in the body that helps to digest food, located beneath the liver. The gallbladder stores the bile that the liver creates. Gallbladder cancer is one of the rarest forms of cancer and often goes undetected due to a lack of symptoms. However, it may be discovered when another surgery is being carried out, for example, if a patient has gallstones.

Gallbladder cancer symptoms

Gallbladder cancer symptoms will vary depending on the person and the stage that the cancer is at at the time, however, common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the abdomen (usually on the right side)
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Jaundice (wherein the whites of the eyes and the skin have a yellow tinge)
  • A swollen abdomen
  • Nausea/sickness

However, it’s important to note that if you experience these symptoms it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have gallbladder cancer, although it’s important that you contact a medical professional for a diagnosis.

What causes gallbladder cancer?

Whilst gallbladder cancer doesn’t always have a noticeable cause, there are several things that can be considered risk factors for developing gallbladder cancer, with many of these risk factors being common for other types of cancers too, such as smoking, obesity & excessive alcohol consumption.

Age, gender and ethnicity can be risk factors too – gallbladder cancer is more common among women and is much more common in Asia & Latin Americans than in the rest of the world, although this may be due to other factors such as diet and environment. Your risk of developing gallbladder cancer increases as you age too. 

Other risk factors include having a family history of gallbladder cancer, diabetes, having gallstones & being diagnosed with other diseases that affect the pancreas and bile ducts. Random mutations and the spread of cancer from other areas of the body can lead to cancer developing within the gallbladder too.

Gallbladder cancer treatment

The treatment provided will depend on the stage the cancer is at when diagnosed, as well as the size of the tumour. Gallbladder surgery will usually be carried out at an earlier stage, provided the tumour can be operated on. This also includes the extraction of the gallbladder and a portion of the liver. However, chemotherapy and radiotherapy may also be used to treat gallbladder cancer or control the symptoms of gallbladder cancer.

If you need more guidance on the best treatment for gallbladder cancer, please don’t hesitate to book an appointment at Birmingham HPB Clinic.