If your healthcare provider believes you may have gallbladder cancer, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure. You should expect to be asked questions about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease. Understanding your background will help your provider make a diagnosis.

He or she will also give you a physical exam, including an exam of the gallbladder and nearby organs. You may have one or more of the following tests.

Imaging tests

Your physician may order one or more of the following tests to diagnose gallbladder cancer:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. This scan uses X-rays to create detailed images of inside the body. CT scans can show tumors and cancer spread to nearby organs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Special types of MRI scans can be used to obtain images of the bile ducts or blood vessels.
  • Ultrasound. An abdominal ultrasound is often the first imaging test ordered. During the test, an ultrasound technologist will move a transducer over your abdomen to look at any suspicious areas. An ultrasound can help show how far cancer has spread into the gallbladder wall and if nearby lymph nodes are enlarged.


A biopsy removes tissue or cells from the gallbladder to be checked by a pathologist under a microscope. Results from a biopsy help determine if cells are cancerous.

A gallbladder biopsy is done with local anesthesia, which uses medicine to numb the area of the abdomen where a needle will be inserted.

A biopsy may be performed with imaging guidance. Ask your provider about your specific type of biopsy to learn more.

Test results

Patients will be contacted after a biopsy by a Markey team member to review results. Further management will be recommended at that time.

Second opinions

When you are diagnosed with gallbladder cancer, it is common to feel a sense of urgency around starting treatment. However, in most cases, there is time to do the needed research to ensure that your diagnosis is correct. That may include getting a second opinion.

Our team of experts works together to diagnose, treat and prevent gallbladder cancer, with a focus on individualized patient care.

Markey is among the best cancer centers in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, when it comes to advanced treatment options, survival rates and experienced providers. As the first and only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in Kentucky, Markey is able to serve many patients each year with rare and common cancers, including gallbladder cancer.

Our specialized team is happy to work with your doctors and communicate to ensure confidence in your diagnosis.

Should I get a second opinion?

A second opinion can help to ensure that you will be getting the latest and most effective therapy for treating gallbladder cancer. The following are common reasons for seeking a second opinion after your initial diagnosis:

  • You are having difficulty understanding your diagnosis.
  • A dedicated team specialized in your cancer type may not be available in your area.
  • There may be uncertainty around the stage of gallbladder cancer.
  • You may want to learn more about different treatment options, including clinical trials and advanced technologies only available at an advanced center like Markey.
  • Your health insurance requires a second opinion before continuing toward treatment.

Questions to ask when getting a second opinion

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, you may have a lot on your mind. Here a few questions to keep in mind for your doctor when seeking a second opinion:

  • Is there a chance that my medical problem could have a different diagnosis?
  • Are there additional tests I should take before moving forward with treatment?
  • Do you recommend any treatments at this time?
  • What do you expect to happen if I wait or don't have the treatment?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?
  • How long are treatment recovery periods?

Additional resources

For more information, visit these trusted national sources for a variety of educational tools and resources:

NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center - A Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Markey Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center – a distinction that recognizes our commitment to accelerating precision cancer research and care to patients. We are the first and only NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Center in Kentucky, and one of 57 in the nation.