Symptoms and diagnosis of gall bladder cancer

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Symptoms of gall bladder cancer

Gall bladder cancer often has no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Some gall bladder cancers are found by chance. The symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain, especially in your right-hand side
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Jaundice,  which may cause yellowing of your eyes and skin, dark yellow urine and pale stools, Itchy skin
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • Fever (high temperature)
  • Pale stools

These symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than cancer, but it’s important to go to the GP and get any unusual changes checked out. Cancer is easier to treat and cure if it’s found early. 

Can I be screened for gall bladder cancer?

Testing for gall bladder cancer when you have no symptoms is called screening. There is no national gall bladder cancer screening programme in Ireland at present. If you are concerned about gall bladder cancer, talk to your GP.

Diagnosing gall bladder cancer

Your family doctor (GP) will talk to you about your symptoms. Your GP will do blood tests and refer you to hospital if they are concerned. Tests you might have include:

ERCP

Your doctor will pass a thin, flexible tube through your mouth and into your stomach and bowel. Here they can look at your bile duct and check for any abnormal changes. They can also inject dye into the duct and check for blockages on an X-ray.

Endoscopic ultrasound scan (EUS)

Your doctor passes a thin, flexible tube through your mouth and down into your stomach and bowel. A device called a probe is then put through the tube. This uses sound waves to look at organs near to your gall bladder.

Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC)

Your doctor puts a thin needle through your tummy and into your liver. A dye is injected into your bile duct so that your doctor can see any blockages on an X-ray.

Laparoscopy

Your doctor will make a small cut in your tummy (abdomen) and put in a small, thin flexible tube with a camera attached to it. The lets your doctor look for any abnormal changes in your gall bladder and other organs, such as your liver. A sample of cells (biopsy) can be taken at this time. 

Laparotomy

Your doctor makes a cut in your tummy (abdomen) to check for abnormal changes. A laparotomy can sometimes lead to more surgery, depending on what your doctor finds. For example, removing your gall bladder.

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