Gallbladder Cancer (cont.)
cancer is difficult to detect (find) and diagnose early.
Gallbladder cancer is difficult to detect and diagnose for the following
- There aren't any noticeable signs or symptoms in the early stages of
- The symptoms of gallbladder cancer, when present, are like
the symptoms of many other illnesses.
- The gallbladder is hidden behind the
Gallbladder cancer is sometimes found when the gallbladder is removed for
other reasons. Patients with gallstones rarely develop gallbladder cancer.
Tests that examine the gallbladder and nearby organs are used to detect
(find), diagnose, and stage gallbladder cancer.
Procedures that create pictures of the gallbladder and the area around it
help diagnose gallbladder cancer and show how far the cancer has spread. The
process used to find out if cancer cells have spread within and around the
gallbladder is called staging.
In order to plan treatment, it is important to know if the gallbladder cancer
can be removed by surgery. Tests and procedures to detect, diagnose, and stage
gallbladder cancer are usually done at the same time. The following tests and
procedures may be used:
- Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of
health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else
that seems unusual. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses
and treatments will also be taken.
- Ultrasound exam: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound)
are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a
picture of body tissues called a sonogram. An abdominal ultrasound is done to
diagnose gallbladder cancer.
- Liver function tests: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to
measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by the liver.
A higher than normal amount of a substance can be a sign of liver disease that
may be caused by gallbladder cancer.
- Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) assay: A test that measures the level of CEA
in the blood. CEA is released into the bloodstream from both cancer cells and
normal cells. When found in higher than normal amounts, it can be a sign of
gallbladder cancer or other conditions.
- CA 19-9 assay: A test that measures the level of CA 19-9 in the blood. CA
19-9 is released into the bloodstream from both cancer cells and normal cells.
When found in higher than normal amounts, it can be a sign of gallbladder cancer
or other conditions.
- CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of
areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a
computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or
swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is
also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial
- Blood chemistry studies: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to
measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and
tissues in the body. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a
substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that produces it.
- Chest x-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a
type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture
of areas inside the body.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio
waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the
body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI). A
dye may be injected into the gallbladder area so the ducts (tubes) that carry
bile from the liver to the gallbladder and from the gallbladder to the small
intestine will show up better in the image. This procedure is called MRCP
(magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography). To create detailed pictures of
blood vessels near the gallbladder, the dye is injected into a vein. This
procedure is called MRA (magnetic resonance angiography).
- ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography): A procedure used to
x-ray the ducts (tubes) that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and
from the gallbladder to the small intestine. Sometimes gallbladder cancer causes
these ducts to narrow and block or slow the flow of bile, causing jaundice. An
endoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is passed through the mouth, esophagus, and
stomach into the first part of the small intestine. A catheter (a smaller tube)
is then inserted through the endoscope into the bile ducts. A dye is injected
through the catheter into the ducts and an x-ray is taken. If the ducts are
blocked by a tumor, a fine tube may be inserted into the duct to unblock it.
This tube (or stent) may be left in place to keep the duct open. Tissue samples
may also be taken.
- Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a
microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. The biopsy may be done
after surgery to remove the tumor. If the tumor clearly cannot be removed by
surgery, the biopsy may be done using a fine needle to remove cells from the
- Laparoscopy: A surgical procedure to look at the organs inside the abdomen to
check for signs of disease. Small incisions (cuts) are made in the wall of the
abdomen and a laparoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted into one of the
incisions. Other instruments may be inserted through the same or other incisions
to perform procedures such as removing organs or taking tissue samples for
biopsy. The laparoscopy helps to determine if the cancer is within the
gallbladder only or has spread to nearby tissues and if it can be removed by
- PTC (percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography): A procedure used to x-ray
the liver and bile ducts. A thin needle is inserted through the skin below the
ribs and into the liver. Dye is injected into the liver or bile ducts and an
x-ray is taken. If a blockage is found, a thin, flexible tube called a stent is
sometimes left in the liver to drain bile into the small intestine or a
collection bag outside the body.
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Gallbladder Cancer - Signs and Symptoms
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Gallbladder Cancer - Detection
Question: Please share how your gallbladder cancer was detected and diagnosed, including exams and tests.
Gallbladder Cancer - Treatment
Question: What kinds of treatment, including surgery, did you or someone you know have for gallbladder cancer?