Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancers

Gallbladder and bile duct cancer care at Scripps

Scripps Health offers options for the treatment of gallbladder cancer.

Gallbladder and bile duct cancer care at Scripps

Scripps physicians and medical teams in San Diego provide collaborative and patient-centered care for gallbladder and bile duct cancers.

According to the American Cancer Society, one in five gallbladder cancers are found in their early stage, underscoring the need for individualized treatment plans that Scripps surgeons and specialists can provide.

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Detection and diagnosis of gallbladder and bile duct cancers

No standard blood test or procedure exists today for a standardized screening of gallbladder or bile duct cancers.

Detection and diagnosis of gallbladder cancer may include a combination of lab work, imaging and other procedures such as:

Bile duct and gallbladder cancer treatment

Depending on the stage of gallbladder and bile duct cancers, patient health and other factors, treatment plans will vary. Your lead physician and supporting team will recommend the best approach. Be sure to discuss with them potential side effects and other considerations that are unique to your diagnosis and plan.

Specific treatments for gallbladder and bile duct cancer may include:

Gallbladder surgery

  • Staging laparoscopy is a form of abdominal exploration that is sometimes performed to learn if the gallbladder cancer has spread and can be removed surgically. The staging laparoscopy involves a small incision in the abdomen. The surgeon uses a laparoscope — a lighted tube with a tiny camera — for the closest possible view.
  • Cholecystectomy (simple cholecystectomy) is surgery that involves removing the gallbladder. It may be performed laparoscopically or as a traditional open surgery that requires a large incision in the abdominal wall.
  • Extended (radical) cholecystectomy is the most common surgery for gallbladder cancer. It includes the removal of the gallbladder, liver tissue and regional lymph nodes, but can also involve removing additional tissues and partial removal of other organs.
  • Palliative surgery can help relieve or prevent symptoms when gallbladder or bile duct cancer has spread to such an advanced stage that it cannot be completely removed.

Radiation therapy

Scripps has the most comprehensive radiation therapy offerings in San Diego for gallbladder and bile duct cancer, including 3D-conformal radiation therapy and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT).

  • 3-D conformal radiation therapy allows physicians to visualize a patient’s anatomy in 3-D though use of advanced computer software to match the radiation dose to the shape of the tumor while minimizing exposure of surrounding healthy tissues and organs
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is an advanced form of radiation therapy that allows the radiation oncologist to specify the dose or radiation for the tumor while restricting the dose to surrounding healthy tissues.

Chemotherapy for gallbladder and bile duct cancers

Chemotherapy may be used as part of a treatment plan after surgery with the aim of eliminating cancer cells or lowering the risks that the cancer may return. It can also be part of palliative care for advanced stages of the disease to help relieve symptoms.

Support services

To enhance the care of people with gallbladder and bile duct cancer, Scripps Health also offers the following services: