Cancer of the gallbladder — the organ where bile is concentrated and stored to help the liver digest fats — is very rare. Gallbladder cancer is difficult to detect early because symptoms typically don't develop until the cancer has grown significantly.
Your gallbladder is located just beneath the liver, to the right of the abdomen: this small, pear-shaped organ stores bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver. It is hard to diagnose gallbladder cancer because early symptoms are difficult to recognize. Another challenge is the location of the gallbladder — cancer can spread quickly without detection since it's located deep inside the body.
Catching gallbladder cancer early — before it has a chance to grow and spread — is crucial to successful treatment. Although there are no screening guidelines for this cancer, it can be detected during a patient’s annual physical exam. If blood tests reveal abnormal liver enzymes, positive results on follow-up tests — and ruling out other diseases — may indicate gallbladder cancer.
Surgery is often the primary treatment for gallbladder cancer. It can be curative for early-stage gallbladder cancer patients and improve survival outcomes and reduce discomfort for advanced gallbladder cancer patients. Other forms of treatment include radiation and drug therapies.
City of Hope's Yuman Fong, M.D., is an internationally recognized expert in cancer of the liver, pancreas, gallbladder and bile ducts. He has led the research effort to employ genetically modified viruses to destroy cancer cells.
Finly Zachariah, M.D., specializes in the palliative medicine at City of Hope cancer research hospital, helping patients with their supportive care needs, from pain control to the many issues involved in hospice and end-of-life care.