Your doctor will begin by taking a thorough medical history and conduct a physical exam.
If you are experiencing possible symptoms of gallbladder cancer, this exam will focus on your abdomen to check for any pain, tenderness, lumps, or build-up of fluid. Your doctor may also check your lymph nodes because sometimes gallbladder cancer will spread there and cause a lump that you can feel under the skin. Finally, he or she will look at your skin and eyes for yellowing.
If your physical exam warrants further testing, your doctor may order additional tests. Blood tests will look for liver and gallbladder function. They primarily monitor the chemical bilirubin, which causes jaundice, albumin, or liver enzymes. Blood tests can also look at tumor markers, which are materials made by cancer cells that can be found in the blood. These markers are not specific for gallbladder cancer; other cancers or health conditions can raise them.
Your doctor may order imaging tests like x-rays, MRIs, or ultrasound to either look for tumors or see how far the cancer has spread. Imaging tests are also helpful to determine if treatment is working. Imaging techniques like ultrasound can also help guide a biopsy needle so that cells can be removed and analyzed under a microscope.
The stage of gallbladder cancer guides your treatment. Doctors use the results of an imaging test, such as a CT or MRI, to determine where the cancer has spread and if surgery will be able to remove all of the cancer.
The main treatment options for gallbladder cancer include:
- Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing
- Radiation therapy to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors
Surgery to remove the cancer
If cancer is too far along and surgery is not an option, doctors focus on palliative care. This type of care aims to relieve symptoms and provide comfort measures to improve your quality of life. Palliative cancer care is for people facing a terminal cancer diagnosis as well as people undergoing active treatment or recovering from treatment.
Prevention is not always possible for gallbladder cancer. There are no cancer screenings, tests, or positive ways to prevent it. However, you can modify risk factors that are under your control. This includes maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and not smoking.
Rely on the expert team at Dignity Health to keep you informed about your personal gallbladder cancer risk factors and your options for coping with gallbladder cancer. We care about your health, and we can offer cutting-edge tools and treatment techniques.
After you complete treatment, you will still be monitored closely by your team of doctors. At your follow-up appointments, you’ll discuss your symptoms (if you have any), your medical provider will conduct a physical exam and may decide to order additional tests.
Most cancer treatments will have side effects that can last for a few weeks or the rest of your life. These will, of course, be discussed at length before you begin treatment, and your doctor will continue to check in about anything you’re experiencing and help you manage them.
You and your doctor will put together a survivorship care plan. This plan will lay out a suggested schedule for follow-up visits and tests, schedule out early detection screening tests for additional types of cancer, and give you diet and exercise suggestions.
It is not yet clear what you can do to lower your chance of your gallbladder cancer returning; however, you can make sure you are doing all that you can to keep your body healthy. Eating a balanced diet, exercising, and not smoking are great places to start.
If your cancer does return, the treatment options will depend on the nature of your cancer and what treatments you had before. It is additionally vital to seek emotional support from your network or through a professional counselor as you continue on your journey to health.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.