Should I see a specialist for gallbladder cancer? | Cancer Research UK
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Should I see a specialist for gallbladder cancer?

Men and women discussing gallbladder cancer

This page tells you about the guidelines that GPs have to help them decide who needs to see a specialist for suspected gallbladder cancer and how soon.

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Guidelines for seeing a gallbladder cancer specialist

It can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who has something much less serious. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says that the following symptom should mean that you are referred urgently for an ultrasound scan to look for gallbladder cancer.

  • A lump in your upper tummy (abdomen) that feels like an enlarged gallbladder

You should get an appointment within 2 weeks for an urgent referral.

If you have other symptoms such as pain, jaundice and weight loss, your GP may refer you for further investigations.

If you do not think your GP is taking your symptoms seriously enough, you could print out this page and take it to your appointment. You may be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist, and how soon.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the about gallbladder cancer section.

 

How common gallbladder cancer is

Gallbladder cancer is rare. There are about 660 cases diagnosed in the UK each year. It is more common in women than men, and as with most cancers it is more common in older people.

 

About NICE guidelines

It can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who may have something much more minor that will go away on its own. With many symptoms, it is perfectly right that your GP should ask you to wait to see if they get better or respond to simple treatments. If GPs referred everyone who came to see them to a specialist immediately, the system would get jammed and people needing urgent appointments wouldn't be able to get them.

According to the NICE guidelines an urgent referral means that you should be referred for tests or see a specialist within 2 weeks. 

Seeing a specialist

While reading these guidelines, it is important to remember that

  • Gallbladder cancer is rare
  • It is more common in women. Around 450 women and 170 men are diagnosed with this cancer each year in the UK
  • It is more common in older people - there are few cases in people under 70
 

Guidelines for urgent referral

Your GP should consider referring you for an urgent ultrasound to look for gallbladder cancer if you have 

  • A lump in your upper tummy (abdomen) that feels like an enlarged gallbladder

If you have other symptoms such as pain, jaundice and weight loss, your GP may refer you for further investigations.

 

What to do if you are still worried

If you are concerned that your GP is not taking your symptoms as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page and take it along to an appointment. Ask your GP to talk it through with you and then you may be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist and if so, how soon.

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Updated: 23 June 2015