Reviewed by: Annie Angle cancer nurse, Diploma Oncology Nursing, Royal Marsden, London
Your doctor will examine you and refer you for tests to see if you have cancer. This can be a worrying and tiring time, especially if you need to have several tests. If the tests show you have or may have cancer, your doctor will refer you to a specialist, who will examine you and may ask you to have more tests.
Your doctor may recommend the following tests.
Your doctor may order other tests such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or a magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP). Your doctor will discuss any recommended tests with you.
The test results will show whether or not you have cancer. They'll show where the primary cancer is and whether the cancer cells have spread to other parts of your body (this is known as metastasis). This helps your doctors ‘stage' the disease so they can work out the best treatment for you.
The staging system used for gallbladder cancer is known as the ‘TNM system' (T=tumour, N=nodes, M=metastases).
Doctors combine this information to work out the stage of the cancer, from Stage 1 (I) to Stage 4 (IV). For example, a cancer assessed as T1, N0, M0 (tumour contained within the liver, lymph nodes not affected and no metastasis) would be called a Stage I cancer.
The lower the ‘number' stage, the less advanced the cancer is and the easier it will be to treat.
Ask your doctor to explain the stage of your cancer in a way you can understand. This will help you to choose the best treatment for you.
The type of treatment you'll have will depend on the type of cancer you have, your general health as well as the stage of the cancer (how far it's spread). Doctors may recommend surgery (including laser treatment and stent insertions), radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy.
Surgery is the main treatment for gallbladder cancer. It can be used to take out all the cancer if it hasn't spread outside the gallbladder. However, if the cancer has spread, surgery may still help to relieve symptoms and decrease the size of the tumour. Other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy may also be helpful.
Cancers that are found early are easier to control and possibly cure.
Call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 for more information about treatment for gallbladder cancer.
You can also read the information about gallbladder cancer on the following cancer patient websites:
Early detection and better treatment have improved survival for people with gallbladder cancer. Research for gallbladder cancer is ongoing. The CancerHelp UK website has information about research into gallbladder cancer. See also our Forgotten cancers research project.
Cancer Council Victoria supports participation in clinical trials. Clinical trials can test the effectiveness of promising new treatments or new ways of combining cancer treatments.
Always discuss treatment options with your doctor.
Your doctors may want to examine you every 3 months for the first year after your treatment, every 6 months between the second and fifth years of your treatment, and once a year after that. They'll examine you and ask about any symptoms you've had, and answer any questions you have. Your doctors may order other tests or scans if needed.
After treatment for gallbladder cancer you're likely to face several changes in your life. Some people may have short-term changes to cope with. Other changes may be permanent and difficult. Most people find they need information and support about how to best deal with their situations.
For further information see the links below or contact Cancer Council on 13 11 20 to speak with a cancer nurse.: