Gallbladder cancer is a rare disease that affects your gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ located under the liver that stores bile. Bile is fluid made in the liver to help digest fats in food as they pass through the small intestine. People with this type of cancer have abnormal cell growth in the gallbladder. Gallbladder cancer can spread to the liver, stomach lining and lungs.

Gallbladder Cancer at UK Markey Cancer Center

Using state-of-the-art technology and leading-edge medical and surgical interventions, the gastrointestinal cancer team provides advanced and timely diagnosis and individualized, ongoing care for patients with gallbladder cancer. Each patient is cared for by a team of specialists who meet regularly to discuss individual patient cases and gallbladder cancer treatment plans. This multidisciplinary team will work with you and your doctor to coordinate a care plan designed to offer the best outcomes.

Markey has provided state-of-the-art cancer care for more than 30 years, and we are proud to be the only cancer center in Kentucky designated by the National Cancer Institute. Since 2017, Markey Cancer Center has been nationally recognized as a top 50 cancer center by U.S. News & World Report.

Gallbladder cancer symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain, especially in the upper, right side
  • Jaundice (yellow tint to the skin)
  • Lump on the right side of the abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Some less common gallbladder cancer symptoms or signs of gallbladder cancer include loss of appetite, weight loss, swelling in the abdomen, light-colored stools, fever, itchy skin and dark urine.

Five-year survival rates are 65 percent for cancer contained in the gallbladder. When the cancer has spread to nearby organs and tissues, the survival rate drops to 28 percent. After cancer has spread to distant sites, such as the lungs, the five-year survival rate is about 2 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

You can lower your risk of cancer by taking steps to build a healthy lifestyle. Here are some ways you can lower your risk for this disease, as well as improve your overall basic health:

  • Avoid using tobacco products. Tobacco has been tied to multiple cancers, and it is responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.
  • Stay physically active. Your physical activity is related to risk for colon and breast cancer. Excess weight gained from inactivity increases the risk of multiple cancers.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. It is important to be mindful of how much alcohol you drink. Alcohol intake, even in moderate amounts, can increase the risk for colon, breast, esophageal and oropharyngeal cancer.
  • Learn about screenings. Your primary care doctor can recommend appropriate cancer screenings based on your age, personal risk and family history.

Having gallstones is the most common risk factor for gallbladder cancer. Because gallbladder cancer is rare, most people with gallstones will not develop cancer. However, up to 4 out of 5 people with gallbladder cancer have gallstones when diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society.

Other risk factors and gallbladder cancer causes include:

  • Abnormalities of the bile ducts. People with a defect that causes backward flow into the bile ducts have higher risk of gallbladder cancer.
  • Being female. Women have a three- to four-times higher chance of developing gallbladder cancer than men.
  • Choledochal cysts. These are bile-filled sacs that can experience pre-cancerous changes that progress to gallbladder cancer.
  • Ethnicity. Hispanics and Native Americans have the highest risk of gallbladder cancer in the United States.
  • Gallbladder polyps. These growths can be cancerous or noncancerous. Polyps larger than 1 centimeter are more likely to be cancer.
  • Obesity. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have this disease. This may be due to the link between obesity and gallstones.
  • Older age. Most people with gallbladder cancer are age 65 or older when diagnosed.
  • Porcelain gallbladder. This condition is when the gallbladder’s walls are covered with calcium deposits.
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis. People with this condition have inflammation of the bile ducts that causes scar tissue to form. This inflammation increases risk of both gallbladder and bile duct cancers.
  • Typhoid. Typhoid infection causes inflammation in the gallbladder that can lead to cancer.
  • For your first visit, you will be directed to the Whitney-Hendrickson Building. Open Google Maps.
  • You can register at the front desk or registration area, where a Markey team member will help guide you through your appointment.
  • Several parking options are available to patients of Markey Cancer Center.
  • Please remember to bring your patient packet with the completed forms. These items will help your doctor learn more about your case and determine the best plan for your care.
  • Review the patient handbook to learn about your stay and everything Markey offers for patients and families.
  • To meet our patient needs, UK HealthCare accepts many forms of insurance.  

Clinical trials are research studies aimed at evaluating medical, surgical or behavioral interventions to determine if a new treatment is safe and effective. At Markey, we are advancing cancer care and research to prevent, detect and treat one patient at a time. As a patient at Markey, you have a team of people looking at your individual case, applying the most recent cancer knowledge to give you the best chance of survival.

Markey has more open clinical trials than any other cancer center in the region, giving you access to some of the most advanced options available. Learn more about ongoing clinical trials for treating gallbladder cancer below.

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Markey Cancer Center is NCI-designated

The UK Markey Cancer Center was first designated by the National Cancer Institute in 2013 – a distinction that recognizes our extraordinary ability to provide world-class care for our patients. We are the only NCI-designated cancer center in Kentucky and one of only 71 in the nation.

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