Chemotherapy is often an effective way to treat gallbladder cancer, prevent it from spreading further, and improve overall survival. Capecitabine is a chemotherapy drug often used for this purpose.

Gallbladder cancer is a rare type of cancer that begins in your gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small organ beneath the liver that stores bile.

There are usually no obvious symptoms of gallbladder cancer until it has spread to other tissues, so it’s often not diagnosed until later stages.

Late stage gallbladder cancer isn’t usually curable, but chemotherapy can help treat it.

Let’s look at capecitabine in detail as it relates to gallbladder cancer.

Capecitabine is sold under the brand name Xeloda. It’s a chemotherapy drug. Chemotherapy drugs destroy cancer cells or prevent cancer cells from dividing.

It’s also a type of drug called an antimetabolite. This means it’s very similar to chemicals your body naturally uses, but its slight differences cause problems for cancer cells.

You might hear capecitabine referred to as a prodrug. This means the chemical itself isn’t active until your body breaks it down.

There are a few uses for capecitabine in treating gallbladder cancer.

First, it can be used after gallbladder removal surgery. It ensures any stray cancer cells left after surgery don’t continue to grow.

Second, capecitabine can be used as a primary treatment for gallbladder cancer that’s too advanced for surgery. It can relieve some symptoms by shrinking existing tumors and preventing more tumors from taking hold.

Researchers are still investigating the effectiveness of capecitabine as a gallbladder cancer treatment.

The evidence so far suggests capecitabine has a low risk profile for most people.

All medications are associated with at least some level of risk. If you begin taking capecitabine, you might experience one or more of the following:

Your dosage is first determined by your body size.

A starting point for capecitabine is 1,500 milligrams per square meter per day. Medical professionals determine your body’s surface area in square meters. For each square meter, you take 1.5 grams of capecitabine each day. This usually lasts for 2 weeks, followed by a 1-week break.

Your doctor may adjust your dosage depending on how the cancer responds and how well your body tolerates the treatment.

If your gallbladder cancer was diagnosed before it spread to surrounding tissues, you may be a candidate to have your gallbladder removed.

After gallbladder removal, your doctor may prescribe capecitabine alone or in combination with other chemotherapy drugs or radiation to help prevent any remaining cancer cells from growing elsewhere in your body.

Capecitabine could be used before gallbladder removal surgery to help shrink the cancerous growths, but this is not very common.

If the gallbladder cancer is too advanced for gallbladder removal surgery, capecitabine is a common treatment to help minimize the spread of cancer, reduce the severity of symptoms, and improve overall survival.

Who should avoid it?

People who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should not use capecitabine. People who are breastfeeding should also avoid capecitabine.

Capecitabine can cause toxins to build up in your liver and kidneys, so it shouldn’t be taken if you have liver or kidney disease or damage.

Some people may have allergies to capecitabine or its byproducts. It may also interfere with other medications. Be sure to share any allergies you have and any medications you’re taking with your doctor before beginning chemotherapy with capecitabine. These include:

  • prescriptions
  • over-the-counter drugs
  • vitamins
  • herbal supplements

Capecitabine is one treatment for gallbladder cancer, but there are many more. Some are better understood than others. Treatments for gallbladder cancer include:

This is still an active area of research. You may want to consider joining a clinical trial depending on your treatment goals.

You might have some more general questions about chemotherapy for gallbladder cancer. Let’s take a look at some of the most common.

What chemotherapy drugs are used for gallbladder cancer?

This article focuses on capecitabine, but there are other chemotherapy drugs sometimes used to treat gallbladder cancer. These can include:

What is the first-line chemotherapy for gallbladder cancer?

First-line chemotherapy for gallbladder cancer is often a combination of gemcitabine and cisplatin, but this doesn’t mean all people with gallbladder cancer will necessarily receive this particular treatment.

What is the best chemotherapy for gallbladder cancer?

The best chemotherapy drug for gallbladder cancer depends on several variables, including the stage of your cancer, your overall health, and your treatment goals.

Deciding which chemotherapy regimen is best for you is a personal decision. Your doctor can help provide guidance and set expectations for your unique circumstances.

Capecitabine is a chemotherapy drug sold under the brand name Xeloda. It’s sometimes used as a treatment for gallbladder cancer.

Capecitabine can be used on its own, with other chemotherapy drugs, or with other therapies, like surgery or radiation.

Your gallbladder cancer treatment plan will be unique to you. Consult your doctor about whether capecitabine would be a good fit for your treatment goals.