Treatments for resectable gallbladder cancer

Resectable means that the cancer can be completely removed with surgery. Gallbladder cancers found at an early stage are more likely to be completely removed. This may be done for stage 0, stage 1, stage 2 and some stage 3 gallbladder cancers.

The following are treatment options for resectable gallbladder cancer. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Surgery

Surgery is the main treatment for resectable gallbladder cancer. Surgery to remove the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy.

A simple cholecystectomy removes only the gallbladder. An extended cholecystectomy removes the gallbladder and other tissues and lymph nodes close by. A radical resection removes even more of the surrounding tissue.

A simple cholecystectomy to remove only the gallbladder is usually all that is needed for early stage (stage 0 and some stage 1) gallbladder cancer because there is only a small chance that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

A simple cholecystectomy may also be done for early stage tumours that have not spread outside the muscular layer and nearby tissue around the gallbladder.

An extended cholecystectomy may be offered for some stage 1 cancers when there is a higher chance that the cancer will spread to the lymph nodes. An extended cholecystectomy may also be done if there is cancer in the cystic duct or in the part of the gallbladder closest to the liver.

An extended cholecystectomy or a radical resection may be offered to completely remove the cancer at a higher stage where it has spread to the lymph nodes or nearby organs such as the liver.

After surgery, you may have chemotherapy, with or without radiation, to stop the cancer from coming back. It is not clear if this chemotherapy treatment after surgery is effective for gallbladder cancer.

Clinical trials

A few clinical trials in Canada are open to people with gallbladder cancer. Clinical trials look at new and better ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.

Expert review and references

  • Lillemoe, K. D., Schulick, R. D., Kennedy, A. S., et al . Cancers of the Biliary Tree: Clinical Management. Kelsen, D. P., Daly, J. M., Kern, S. E., Levin, B., Tepper, J. E., & Van Cutsem, E. (eds.). Principles and Practice of Gastrointestinal Oncology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008: 37:493-510.
  • Patel,T. and Borad, M.J. . Cancer of the biliary tree. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 53:715-733.
  • Siegel, A.B., Sheynzon,V., and Samstein, B. . Uncommon Hepatobiliary tumors. Raghavan, E., Blanke, C.D., Johnson, D. H., et al. (Eds.). Textbook of Uncommon Cancer. 4th ed. Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons; 2012: 31:441-452.