Gallbladder Cancer
Gallbladder cancer can be cured if it is treated before the cancer spreads, making the prognosis of early diagnosis generally favorable.

Yes, gallbladder cancer can be cured, but it is only possible if cancer has not spread beyond the gallbladder (metastasized). If the cancer is localized, the person can be cured through the surgical removal of cancer. In cases of metastasis, however, treatment is given to manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of complications (palliative management).

What is the survival rate for gallbladder cancer?

The survival rate of gallbladder cancer depends on several factors, such as:

  • The stage of gallbladder cancer (depends on how far cancer has spread in the body)
  • How early in the course of the disease the treatment was initiated
  • Whether cancer can be completely removed by surgery
  • The patient’s general health
  • The age of the person at the time of diagnosis
  • Whether the gallbladder cancer has been diagnosed for the first time, or it has recurred (came back after treatment)
  • The microscopic appearance of the cancer cells

Gallbladder cancer is a rare but aggressive type of cancer. The prognosis is better if the cancer is diagnosed early, but most cases are diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease.

The survival rates are expressed as five-year survival rates, which means what percentage of people with the same stage and type of cancer have lived for at least five years. Thus, if the five-year survival rate for a particular stage is 50 percent, it means that people who have that stage of gallbladder cancer are, on average, about 50 percent as likely as people who do not have that cancer to live for at least five years after diagnosis.

These survival rates are approximations and may vary with people. They may differ based on various factors, such as general health, certain risk factors, and how well the patient has responded to treatment. Cancer research is growing by leaps and bounds, and these figures (from records at a particular time) may not be accurate at this moment.

Table. The average five-year survival rates for the various stages of gallbladder cancer
Gallbladder cancer stage (SEER* stage) Five-year survival rate (in percent)
Localized (There is no sign that cancer has spread beyond the gallbladder) 65
Regional (Cancer has spread beyond the gallbladder but only to the nearby structures or lymph nodes) 28
Distant (Cancer has spread to the distant sites in the body, such as the lungs) 2
All SEER stages combined 19
*SEER = Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results

What are the signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer?

Signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer vary from patient, however, common symptoms may include:

Early symptoms may mimic inflammation in the gallbladder due to gallstones. While most people with gallbladder cancer do develop gallstones, only 1 in 200 people with gallstones has gallbladder cancer.

How is gallbladder cancer treated?

The treatment of gallbladder cancer depends on various factors including the stage of cancer, the patient’s general health, and whether cancer can be removed by surgery. Generally, the treatment involves surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy used alone or in combination. Medications may also be given to manage symptoms, such as pain and vomiting.

Besides surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, several newer treatment options are also being developed, which include:

  • Targeted therapy (specifically targets the cancer cell depending on certain peculiarities that differentiate them from healthy cells)
  • Radiation sensitizers (involves making cancer cells more susceptible to the effect of radiation therapy)
  • Immunotherapy (helps your immune system to fight the cancer cells)

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Medically Reviewed on 9/21/2021
References
Fox E. Gallbladder Cancer. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/278641-overview

UpToDate. Prognosis and Patterns of Spread. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/prognosis-and-adjuvant-treatment-for-localized-resected-gallbladder-cancer?search=prognosis%20of%20gallbladder%20cancer&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~72&usage_type=default&display_rank=1#H6

American Cancer Society. Survival Rates for Gallbladder Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/gallbladder-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html