Gallbladder Cancer (cont.)

Certain factors affect the prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

  • The stage of the cancer (whether the cancer has spread from the gallbladder to other places in the body).
  • Whether the cancer can be completely removed by surgery.
  • The type of gallbladder cancer (how the cancer cell looks under a microscope).
  • Whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).

Treatment may also depend on the age and general health of the patient and whether the cancer is causing symptoms.

Gallbladder cancer can be cured only if it is found before it has spread, when it can be removed by surgery. If the cancer has spread, palliative treatment can improve the patient's quality of life by controlling the symptoms and complications of this disease.

Taking part in one of the clinical trials being done to improve treatment should be considered. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Stages of Gallbladder Cancer

Tests and procedures to stage gallbladder cancer tell the doctor the extent of the cancer. The testing necessary to learn if the disease is localized or not is usually done at the same time as diagnosis.

See the General Information section for a description of tests and procedures used to detect, diagnose, and stage gallbladder cancer.

The following stages are used for gallbladder cancer:

Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ)

In stage 0, abnormal cells are found in the innermost (mucosal) layer of the gallbladder. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called carcinoma in situ.

Stage I

In stage I, cancer has formed. Stage I is divided into stage IA and stage IB.

  • Stage IA: Cancer has spread beyond the innermost (mucosal) layer to the connective tissue or to the muscle (muscularis) layer.
  • Stage IB: Cancer has spread beyond the muscle layer to the connective tissue around the muscle.

Stage II

Stage II is divided into stage IIA and stage IIB.

  • Stage IIA: Cancer has spread beyond the visceral peritoneum (a thin layer of tissue that covers the gallbladder) and/or to the liver and/or one nearby organ (such as the stomach, small intestine, colon, pancreas, or bile ducts outside the liver).
  • Stage IIB: Cancer has spread:
    • beyond the innermost layer to the connective tissue and to nearby lymph nodes; or
    • to the muscle layer and nearby lymph nodes; or
    • beyond the muscle layer to the connective tissue around the muscle and to nearby lymph nodes; or
    • through the visceral peritoneum (tissue that covers the gallbladder) and/or to the liver and/or to one nearby organ (such as the stomach, small intestine, colon, pancreas, or bile ducts outside the liver), and to nearby lymph nodes.

Stage III

In stage III, cancer has spread to a main blood vessel in the liver or to nearby organs and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Stage IV

In stage IV, cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and/or to organs far away from the gallbladder.

For gallbladder cancer, stages are also grouped according to how the cancer may be treated. There are two treatment groups:

Localized (Stage I)

Cancer is found in the wall of the gallbladder and can be completely removed by surgery.

Unresectable (Stage II, Stage III, and Stage IV)

Cancer has spread through the wall of the gallbladder to surrounding tissues or organs or throughout the abdominal cavity. Except in patients whose cancer has spread only to lymph nodes, the cancer is unresectable (cannot be completely removed by surgery).

Recurrent Gallbladder Cancer

Recurrent gallbladder cancer is cancer that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. The cancer may come back in the gallbladder or in other parts of the body.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/19/2014

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Gallbladder Cancer - Signs and Symptoms Question: Describe signs and symptoms that led to a diagnosis of gallbladder cancer.
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