Gallbladder cancer – causes, side effects and treatments at

Saturday, January 13, 2018 by

Cancer of the gallbladder is rare and it is more common in women and Native Americans. It can be hard to diagnose gallbladder cancer when it is still in its early stages.

In some cases, doctors will find it when they remove a patient’s gallbladder for other reasons. However, individuals with gallstones are seldom diagnosed with gallbladder cancer. Since it is often found late, gallbladder cancer can be hard to treat.

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ under the liver and it stores bile, a fluid made by the liver to digest fat. As the stomach and intestines digest food, the gallbladder releases bile via a tube or the common bile duct.

Known side effects of gallbladder cancer

Risk factors for gallbladder cancer include:

  • Age — It is more common in older people and the chances of developing it increase with age.
  • Lifestyle factors – Obesity, smoking, and an unhealthy diet can increase the risk of gallbladder cancer.
  • Certain medical conditions — Gallstones, cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), and diabetes are linked to gallbladder cancer.
  • Family medical history — Having relatives who have had gallstones, cholecystitis, or gallbladder cancer also increases the risk of developing the condition.

Symptoms that occur at a later stage of gallbladder cancer include:

  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Feeling sick
  • Jaundice

While these symptoms might be connected to other conditions, consult a healthcare professional to determine what’s causing them. Other possible symptoms of gallbladder cancer may include loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, and a swollen stomach.

Body systems harmed by gallbladder cancer

When a patient with gallbladder cancer has jaundice, their liver stops working properly. It could also mean that there is a blockage in the biliary system (includes the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts). Symptoms can include:

  • Yellowing skin and whites of the eyes
  • Severe itching (pruritis)
  • Darkened urine
  • Pale colored stools

Food items or nutrients that may prevent gallbladder cancer

Incorporating the following foods and nutrients in your diet can help prevent gallbladder cancer:

  • Fruits and vegetables — Consuming more nutrients can help your body stay healthy.
  • Lean protein — Minimizing your fat intake also eases the stress on your bladder. Choose lean meats like white meat, fish, and vegetable proteins.
  • “Good” fats — Polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 can help the gallbladder stay healthy and reduce the risk of gallbladder problems. Eat lots of cold-water fish, walnuts, and flaxseed.
  • Calcium — Eating calcium-rich foods (e.g. leafy greens, broccoli, and sardine) can support a healthy gallbladder.

Treatments, management plans for gallbladder cancer

The main treatment for gallbladder cancer is surgery to remove the gallbladder along with some of the surrounding tissue. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are also sometimes used, either on their own or in combination with surgery.

The treatment program for each patient varies depending on:

  • The type of gallbladder cancer
  • The stage of the cancer
  • The overall level of health

Like with all cancers, the chances of survival depend on how far the condition has advanced when it is diagnosed. For example, if the cancerous cells are confined to the gallbladder lining, the patient’s chances of survival are at 80 percent (their chances of living for more than five years are good). But if gallbladder cancer has spread to the surrounding tissue or lymph nodes, a patient’s chances of living for at least five years are much lower (30 percent).

Where to learn more


Cancer of the gallbladder is rare and it can be hard to diagnose when it is still in its early stages.

When a patient with gallbladder cancer has jaundice, their liver stops working properly.

Treatment for gallbladder cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.

Sources include


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