Gallbladder cancer

Gallbladder cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the digestive system, with around 980 cases diagnosed each year. It’s sometimes called biliary cancer.

 

What is gallbladder cancer?

The gallbladder is a small organ shaped like a pear. It’s located underneath the liver on the right side of your body. The gallbladder concentrates and stores a fluid called bile. Bile is produced by the liver and breaks down fat in the food we eat.

You can live without your gallbladder – it’s not essential for digesting your food. That means it can be removed without causing long-term problems.

There are several types of gallbladder cancer. The most common is adenocarcinoma, which develops in gland cells lining the gallbladder.

Other types include:

    • Squamous cell carcinomas which start in the surface cells of the gallbladder
 
• Sarcomas of the gallbladder
• Lymphomas of the gallbladder

 

Causes of gallbladder cancer

No one is sure what causes gallbladder cancer, but it’s more likely if:

    • A close relative has gallbladder cancer
    • You are overweight or obese
    • You have another gallbladder condition such as gallstones
    • You smoke
    • You work with metal or rubber
    • You’re over 70

Symptoms of gallbladder cancer

Gallbladder cancer can be difficult to spot early on. Sometimes it’s only diagnosed when someone needs surgery to remove gallstones.

As it develops, warning signs can include:

A swollen tummy

Dark yellow urine or pale coloured stools

Feeling (or being) sick

High temperature (fever)

Itchy skin

Jaundice (yellow skin and whites of the eyes)

Loss of appetite

Tummy pain

Unexplained weight loss

Having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer but it’s best to ask your doctor for advice. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.

Tests and diagnosis

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms. They may refer you to a specialist for more tests, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Scans, including CT, MRI or ultrasound
  • Endoscopy (camera test)
  • Laparoscopy (or key hole camera investigation surgery)

Treatments we offer

These tumours are hard to treat, although options include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

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Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

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Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Meet our doctors

Everything we do is focused on designing better care for our patients. With a network of 12 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard.

We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.

Meet our doctors

Search for a centre near you

Maidstone

17 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4UA

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Birmingham

Little Aston Hall Drive, Sutton Coldfield, B74 3BF

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Nottingham

The Park Centre for oncology, Sherwood Lodge Drive, Burntstump Country Park, Nottingham, NG5 8RX

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Portsmouth

Bartons Road, Havant, PO9 5NA

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Guildford

BMI St Martha Oncology Centre, 46 Harvey Road, Guildford, GU1 3XL

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Southampton

Spire Hospital, Chalybeate Close, Southampton, SO16 6UY

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Chelmsford

Springfield Cancer Centre, Lawn Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 7GU

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Elstree

Unit 710, Centennial Park, Centennial Avenue, Elstree, Borehamwood, WD6 3SZ

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Oxford

Sandy Lane West, Peters Way, Oxford, OX4 6LB

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Milton Keynes

Sunrise Parkway, Linford Wood East, Milton Keynes, MK14 6LS

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Newmarket

The Oaks, Fordham Road, Newmarket, CB8 7XN

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Windsor

69 Alma Road, Windsor, SL4 3HD

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