Gallbladder Cancer Treatment- Cancer/Oncology, Gastroenterology
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Gallbladder Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.
- There are different types of treatment for patients with gallbladder cancer.
- Three types of standard treatment are used:
- Radiation therapy
- New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
- Radiation sensitizers
- Treatment for gallbladder cancer may cause side effects.
- Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
- Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.
- Follow-up tests may be needed.
There are different types of treatment for patients with gallbladder cancer.
Different types of treatments are available for patients with gallbladder cancer. Some treatments are standard(the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Three types of standard treatment are used:
Gallbladder cancer may be treated with a cholecystectomy, surgery to remove the gallbladder and some of the tissues around it. Nearby lymph nodes may be removed. A laparoscope is sometimes used to guide gallbladder surgery. The laparoscope is attached to a video camera and inserted through an incision (port) in the abdomen. Surgical instruments are inserted through other ports to perform the surgery. Because there is a risk that gallbladder cancer cells may spread to these ports, tissue surrounding the port sites may also be removed.
If the cancer has spread and cannot be removed, the following types of palliative surgery may relieve symptoms:
- Biliary bypass: If the tumor is blocking the bile duct and bile is building up in the gallbladder, a biliary bypass may be done. During this operation, the doctor will cut the gallbladder or bile duct in the area before the blockage and sew it to the small intestine to create a new pathway around the blocked area.
- Endoscopic stent placement: If the tumor is blocking the bile duct, surgery may be done to put in a stent (a thin tube) to drain bile that has built up in the area. The doctor may place the stent through a catheter that drains the bile into a bag on the outside of the body or the stent may go around the blocked area and drain the bile into the small intestine.
- Percutaneous transhepatic biliary drainage: A procedure done to drain bile when there is a blockage and endoscopic stent placement is not possible. An x-ray of the liver and bile ducts is done to locate the blockage. Images made by ultrasound are used to guide placement of a stent, which is left in the liver to drain bile into the small intestine or a collection bag outside the body. This procedure may be done to relieve jaundice before surgery.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy:
- External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer.
- Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.
The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. External radiation therapy is used to treat gallbladder cancer.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavitysuch as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
This summary section describes treatments that are being studied in clinical trials. It may not mention every new treatment being studied. Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Clinical trials are studying ways to improve the effect of radiation therapy on tumor cells, including the following:
- Hyperthermia therapy: A treatment in which body tissue is exposed to high temperatures to damage and kill cancer cells or to make cancer cells more sensitive to the effects of radiation therapy and certain anticancer drugs.
- Radiosensitizers: Drugs that make tumor cells more sensitive to radiation therapy. Giving radiation therapy together with radiosensitizers may kill more tumor cells.
Treatment for gallbladder cancer may cause side effects.
For information about side effects caused by treatment for cancer, see our Side Effects page.
Treatment Options for Gallbladder Cancer
- Localized Gallbladder Cancer
- Unresectable, Recurrent, or Metastatic Gallbladder Cancer
Localized Gallbladder Cancer
Treatment of localized gallbladder cancer may include the following:
- Surgery to remove the gallbladder and some of the tissue around it. Part of the liverand nearby lymph nodes may also be removed. Radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy may follow surgery.
- Radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy.
- A clinical trial of radiation therapy with radiosensitizers.
Unresectable, Recurrent, or Metastatic Gallbladder Cancer
Treatment of unresectable, recurrent, or metastatic gallbladder cancer is usually within a clinical trial. Treatment may include the following:
- Percutaneous transhepatic biliary drainage or the placement of stents to relieve symptoms caused by blocked bile ducts. This may be followed by radiation therapy as palliative treatment.
- Surgery as palliative treatment to relieve symptoms caused by blocked bile ducts.
- A clinical trial of new ways to give palliative radiation therapy, such as giving it together with hyperthermia therapy, radiosensitizers, or chemotherapy.
- A clinical trial of new drugs and drug combinations.