Gallbladder Cancer / Bile Duct Cancer


Gallbladder Cancer / Bile Duct Cancer


The gallbladder lies between liver and intestine. The gallbladder stores the bile produced by the liver. It is important for the digestive processes in the small intestine. If necessary, therefore, bile is passed through the bile duct into the small intestine.

Gallbladder and adjacent organs

1. Liver 2. Gallbladder 3. Mouth of the bile duct into the small intestine 4. Bile duct 5. Pancreas 6. Small intestine

Gallbladder cancer risk factors

  • Gallstones or gall bladder infections
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis (inflammation of the bile ducts)
  • Polyps in the gallbladder
  • Parasites in the bile ducts (eg liver flukes, suckers)
  • Smoke
  • Chemicals (nitrosamines)
  • overweight

Gallbladder cancer symptoms

Cancer of the gallbladder or bile ducts often causes discomfort only when the tumor obstructs the outflow of bile into the small intestine. This causes symptoms similar to jaundice:

  • Yellowing of the skin and eyeballs
  • Dark discoloration of the urine
  • Bright bowel movement
  • itching
  • Some sufferers may experience nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain

Gallbladder cancer diagnosis

For diagnosis, the abdominal organs are examined by ultrasound or computed tomography.

With an “endoscopic retrograde cholangiography” (ERC), the gallbladder can be examined and tissue samples taken. In an ERC, an endoscope is inserted through the small intestine to the point where the bile duct opens. After that, a contrast medium is injected into the bile duct and an X-ray is taken at the same time. On the radiograph, the extent of the tumor in the bile ducts and gallbladder can be assessed.

Gallbladder cancer therapy

The treatment of gallbladder and bile duct cancer is planned individually. Decisive for the treatment are the size and type of the tumor as well as the stage of the disease.

The main treatment methods are:

  • Operation: If the tumor has not spread too far, it will be removed along with parts of the liver.
  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy