Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder cancer involves the formation of cancer cells in the tissues of the gallbladder. This type of cancer is rare and doesn’t have specific gallbladder symptoms, which makes it hard to diagnose.  

Gallbladder Cancer: What You Need to Know 

Teamwork
Gallbladder cancer is best managed by a group of specialists that include gastroenterologists, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, surgeons, nurses and cancer patient support specialists.  Our physicians and other support staff work together as a team, providing expert care.

Personalized Care
Our nurse navigators are here to help coordinate your care and streamline your overall experience.  Our skilled nurses will help you through the clinical aspects of your care, scheduling initial tests and consultations with the appropriate physicians, providing education regarding your diagnosis and treatment plan, and acting as a single point of contact for you and your family.  We also assist with the logistics of your care, helping you find the resources you need, and providing support for transportation, financial and insurance issues.

Experienced, Trusted Expertise
Fletcher Allen and the Vermont Cancer Center provide specialty expertise in the screening, diagnosis and treatment of gallbladder cancer.  Our nationally recognized physicians are also researchers and teachers who are up-to-date with the latest developments in their fields.  We are proud to offer clinical research practices that may one day lead to future cures.

What is Gallbladder Cancer?

The gallbladder is a small sac found just under the liver that stores bile. Bile, which is made by the liver, helps you digest fats.  Bile moves from the gallbladder to the small intestine through tubes called the cystic duct and common bile duct.

The gallbladder wall has three main layers of tissue: inner (called mucosal), middle or muscle (called muscularis) and outer (called serosal).  Supporting connective tissue separates the layers.  Gallbladder cancer typically starts in the inner layer and spreads to the outer layers as it grows.

The chance for a cure is good when gallbladder cancer is caught early. Unfortunately, gallbladder cancer is usually discovered at a late stage.

Gallbladder symptoms often don't appear until the cancer is advanced, and then the symptoms are like those of many other illnesses. Gallbladder symptoms may include:

  • Upper abdominal pain, particularly on the right
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Itchiness
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Nausea
  • Your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow (jaundice)

The exact cause of gallbladder cancer is unknown, but several factors can increase your risk of developing it, including: 

  • Gender: the condition is more common in women than men
  • Race: Native Americans are more likely to have gallbladder cancer
  • Age: Risk increase as you age
  • Gallstones: Gallbladder cancer is most common in people who have had gallstones, but it is still a rare disease
  • Other gallbladder diseases can increase the risk of gallbladder cancer, including:
    • Porcelain gallbladder
    • Choledochal cyst
    • Chronic gallbladder infection

Diagnosis and Treatment: Gallbladder Cancer

Fletcher Allen’s physicians are highly trained in performing procedures to diagnose and treat gallbladder cancer such as ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography), cholecystectomy and endoscopic placement of stents.

Learn more about gallbladder cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Find a Fletcher Allen physician or call 877-540-HOPE (4673).