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Treatment

Gallbladder cancer is often treatable, but it can be difficult to treat.

The treatment you have will depend on:

  • the size and type of gallbladder cancer you have
  • where it is
  • if it has spread
  • your general health

It may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The specialist care team looking after you will:

  • explain the treatments, benefits and side effects
  • work with you to create a treatment plan that is best for you
  • help you manage any side effects, including changes to your diet to help you digest your food

You'll have regular check-ups during and after any treatments. You may also have tests and scans.

If you have any symptoms or side effects that you are worried about, talk to your specialists. You do not need to wait for your next check-up.

Surgery

Your treatment will depend on if the cancer can be removed or not.

Surgery to remove gallbladder cancer

If gallbladder cancer is found early and it has not spread, you may be able to have surgery to remove it.

This will usually involve removing all of the gallbladder, as well as parts of other organs or lymph nodes around it. Lymph nodes are part of your body's immune system.

Surgery to help control symptoms of gallbladder cancer

If the cancer has spread too far and cannot be removed, you may have surgery to help control some symptoms of gallbladder cancer.

This can include surgery to:

  • unblock the bile duct or stop it getting blocked, which helps with jaundice
  • bypass a blockage in the bile duct, this helps with jaundice and feeling or being sick

The aim of these operations is to help improve your symptoms, not to cure the cancer.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill cancer cells.

You may have chemotherapy for gallbladder cancer:

  • before surgery to help make the cancer smaller
  • after surgery to get rid of any remaining cancer and help stop the cancer coming back
  • to help make the cancer smaller, and control and improve the symptoms if you are not able to have surgery because you are very unwell, or the cancer cannot be removed by surgery

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays of radiation to kill cancer cells.

Radiotherapy is not often used to treat gallbladder cancer. But you may have radiotherapy to help control and improve the symptoms of advanced cancer.

What happens if you've been told your cancer cannot be cured

If you have advanced gallbladder cancer it might be very hard to treat. It may not be possible to cure the cancer.

If this is the case, the aim of your treatment will be to limit the cancer and its symptoms, and help you live longer.

Finding out the cancer cannot be cured can be very hard news to take in.

You will be referred to a special team of doctors and nurses called the palliative care team or symptom control team.

They will work with you to help manage your symptoms and make you feel more comfortable.

The clinical nurse specialist or palliative care team can also help you and your loved ones get any support you need.

Information:

Find out more

Macmillan Cancer Support: end of life care