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About advanced gallbladder cancer

Men and women discussing gallbladder cancer

This page tells you about advanced gallbladder cancer.


What is advanced gallbladder cancer?

Advanced gallbladder cancer means the cancer has spread from where it started in the gallbladder and it cannot be removed with surgery. Or the cancer has come back some time after you were first treated. Unfortunately, most people with gallbladder cancer already have advanced cancer when they are diagnosed. Even if your doctor can’t cure your cancer, there is treatment available to control your symptoms. This may also shrink the cancer and slow it down, even if it can’t get rid of it.


Possible treatments for advanced gallbladder cancer

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery can all be used to treat advanced gallbladder cancer. The treatment depends on

  • The size and number of secondary cancers
  • Where in the body the cancer has spread
  • The treatment you have already had
  • Your general health

If the cancer blocks bile drainage from your gallbladder, you can have a drainage tube called a stent put in. The stent allows the bile to drain into the small bowel again and can help to relieve your symptoms. Some drug treatments can control particular symptoms, for example pain or feeling sick. You may also be offered pain control with nerve blocks.

There may be trials of experimental treatments that you can take part in. These may be new chemotherapy drugs or new types of treatment. Look at the gallbladder cancer research page for more information.


Treatment decisions for advanced gallbladder cancer

When you have an advanced cancer, it can be difficult to decide which treatment to try, or whether to have treatment at all. You will need to consider your quality of life while you are having the treatment. This includes side effects, as well as stresses (such as travelling back and forth to the hospital). Most importantly you will need to understand how the treatment your doctor is offering may help you.

Your doctor will discuss the options for treatment with you. There may be a counsellor or specialist nurse at the hospital you can talk to. You may also want to talk things over with a close relative or friend. It can be helpful to talk over difficult decisions with someone who is outside your circle of family and friends. Contact a counselling organisation to find out more about counselling and how to find a counsellor in your area.

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Updated: 19 June 2014