Gallbladder cancer is a relatively rare cancer that’s usually diagnosed in an advanced stage. Symptoms often don’t appear until the cancer grows large or spreads.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about
Doctors can use various imaging tests to help diagnose gallbladder cancer and rule out other conditions.
Most times, before surgery to remove a tumor, doctors will perform a biopsy to see what type of tumor it is. But with gallbladder cancer, a doctor may choose not do a biopsy before removing it since it can be risky. Ultimately, a biopsy will be done, but it may be handled
Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms of gallbladder cancer and how its diagnosed.
Are symptoms the same for men and women?
Gallbladder cancer causes similar symptoms in men and women. Gallbladder cancer is about
Early stage gallbladder cancer often doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms. According to the
Late stage gallbladder cancer that has grown large or spread beyond the gallbladder might cause symptoms such as:
- abdominal pain, often in your upper right abdomen
- a lump or swelling in your abdomen
- loss of appetite
- dark urine
- unintentional weight loss
- nausea and vomiting
- itchy skin
- pale stools
Is gallbladder cancer a fast-growing (aggressive) cancer?
Despite improvements in treatment, the outlook for people with advanced gallbladder cancer remains poor. Compared with people without gallbladder cancer, people with cancer that’s spread to nearby tissues are only about
Gallbladder cancer isn’t often diagnosed in the early stages. It’s usually found incidentally when your gallbladder is removed to treat gallstones. Gallbladders removed for gallstones are almost
Gallbladder cancer tests
A doctor may first perform or order tests such as:
- reviewing your personal and family medical history
- reviewing your symptoms
- aphysical exam
- blood tests to look for tumor markers and measure liver gallbladder and liver function
Your doctor may order imaging if they think you have a gallbladder problem. You may receive
Imaging can help doctors visualize the extent of your cancer or differentiate gallbladder cancer from other conditions. Many other conditions can cause similar symptoms, such as:
- bile duct cancer
- bile duct obstruction
- acute gallbladder inflammation
- liver cancer
- pancreatic cancer
Your doctor may want to perform a biopsy to confirm your diagnosis and see what type of gallbladder cancer you have. They can take a biopsy in
- with a long thin needle
- during laparoscopy
- during cholangiography
Your doctor may not want to perform a biopsy if there’s
Gallbladder cancer occurs when gene mutations in gallbladder cells cause them to replicate too quickly. These genetic mutations may be inherited from your parents or develop throughout your life.
The risk of developing gallbladder cancer
- gallbladder size
- severity of symptoms
- length of time since symptoms began
Most people with gallstones never develop gallbladder cancer.
Other risk factors
Women develop gallbladder cancer about
- porcelain gallbladder, where the walls of your gallbladder become covered in calcium
- increasing age, especially being over the age of 65
- bile duct cysts
- other bile duct abnormalities
- gallbladder polyps
- family history
Risk factors with less evidence include:
- nitrosamine exposure
- exposure to some chemicals in the rubber and textile industries
You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data points in this article is pretty binary, fluctuating between the use of “male” and “female” or “men” and “women.” Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and findings.
Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.
Gallbladder polyps and cancer
Rarer adenomatous polyps are more likely to become cancerous. It’s often recommended to have them removed when they grow above
In a 2020
Gallbladder cancer is a relatively rare cancer that often isn’t detected until it grows large or spreads to other organs. Symptoms usually don’t appear until the advanced stages.
Most symptoms of gallbladder cancer can have many different causes. It’s important to see your doctor any time you have unexplained and persistent symptoms such as jaundice, abdominal pain, or nausea.