Treatment for gall bladder cancer
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are all used to treat gallbladder cancer. Many patients get a combination of treatments. For example, chemotherapy or radiotherapy can be used to shrink the tumour before surgery.
Your treatment will depend on the stage, grade and type of cancer cells you have. The stage looks at the size of your cancer and if it has spread from where it started.
The grade of the cancer can tell if your cancer grows quickly or slowly. You can have a low, moderate or high grade cancer.
Surgery is the main treatment for gallbladder cancer. The aim is to remove all the cancer cells present. It is usually done if the cancer has not spread. Other types of surgery can be used if a cancer has spread outside your gallbladder. For example, if your cancer is causing a blockage, your doctor might put a stent in during an ERCP. A stent is a thin mesh wire tube that will keep the duct open and prevent blockages. For more information, contact the National Cancer Helpline on 1800 200 700 and speak to a specialist nurse.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to cure or control cancer. Chemotherapy drugs can be given on their own or with each other.
Chemotherapy can also be given before or after radiotherapy and surgery. Chemotherapy drugs are either injected into the bloodstream or given in tablet form. Please see our booklet Understanding Chemotherapy and Other Cancer Drugs, which you can download from our "Publications about cancer treatment side effects" list on the right hand side of this page, for more about chemotherapy. For more information on individual drugs, visit our chemotherapy drug information page.
Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy rays to kill or shrink the cancer cells. These rays are aimed directly at your tumour. For more information, please see our booklet Understanding Radiotherapy, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page.
Advanced cancer means that your cancer has spread from the area where it started. If it spreads to the area around your gallbladder, it is called local spread. If it spreads to other areas of your body, it is called secondary cancer or metastatic cancer. It is usually not possible to cure advanced cancer. Treatment is given to control the cancer and to improve your quality of life. These treatments can involve surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The palliative care team may visit you at this time. This team can help with any symptoms that may occur and support you and your family through your
What are the main side-effects of treatment? The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. Some treatments may cause symptoms like lowered resistance to infections, nausea or loss of appetite. Many treatments cause fatigue (tiredness). Your doctor will discuss any likely side-effects before treatment.
For more about side-effects, please see our booklets Understanding Chemotherapy and other drugs, Understanding Radiotherapy, Understanding Cancer and Complementary Therapies, Coping with Fatigue and Diet and Cancer which you can download from our "Publications about cancer treatment side effects" list on the right hand side of this page, or learn more about side effects here.
If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not. For further information please see the cancer and clinicial trial section