Controlling the symptoms of advanced cancer

Treatment can relieve the symptoms of advanced gallbladder cancer to give you a better quality of life. You might have surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or medicines.


Chemotherapy can help treat your symptoms by shrinking the cancer. This can relieve pain or a partially blocked bowel that is causing sickness.

A combination of gemcitabine and cisplatin chemotherapy is often used for advanced gallbladder cancer. There are also other chemotherapy drugs that can help.

Relieving a blockage

Sometimes the cancer can block bile from going from the gallbladder into the small bowel. This causes jaundice. To help the bile drain into the bowl again, your doctor might put a small tube into the small bowel. Or they might do an operation to bypass the blockage.

Sometimes a medicine called somatostatin (octreotide) can open up the bowel instead of having an operation. Somatostatin is a hormone made naturally by the body and can be made artificially.

Somatostatin with steroids can help to reduce swelling that makes the bowel blockage worse. Unfortunately this type of treatment only works for a limited time. It works by reducing the amount of fluid that builds up in your stomach and digestive system. This helps to stop you being sick and can relieve bloating.

Controlling pain

Painkillers are a way of controlling pain. You should be able to be pain free most of the time with the right type and dose of painkillers.

There are also other ways of controlling pain.

Controlling sickness

Sickness can be caused by the cancer or treatments. Your doctor will find the cause and can prescribe anti sickness medicines. There are things that you can do too to help reduce sickness.

Other medicines

Your doctor may suggest that you take steroids to help you feel better and boost your appetite. You may also have them to help control sickness, particularly if it is caused by chemotherapy.

Research into advanced gallbladder cancer

Some clinical trials are looking into ways of improving treatment for people with advanced gallbladder cancer. There are also trials looking at reducing the side effects of treatment and improving quality of life.

Last reviewed: 
06 Feb 2020
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