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Gallbladder cancer involves the formation of cancer cells in the tissues of the gallbladder. This type of cancer is rare and doesn't have specific gallbladder symptoms, which makes it hard to diagnose.

The doctors and technicians at the UVM Cancer Center use advanced technology to provide accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plans.

Gallbladder Cancer Care at UVM Medical Center

We want you to be confident that you are receiving high-quality care.

  • Diagnostic expertise - Gallbladder cancer is difficult to diagnose, which can lead to late diagnosis. We use endoscopy and specialized imaging tests to diagnose gallbladder cancer as soon as possible so you can begin treatment.

Gallbladder Cancer: An Overview

The gallbladder is a small sac found just under the liver that stores bile. Bile, which is made by the liver, helps you digest fats. Bile moves from the gallbladder to the small intestine through tubes called the cystic duct and common bile duct.

The gallbladder wall has three main layers of tissue: inner (called mucosal), middle or muscle (called muscularis) and outer (called serosal). Supporting connective tissue separates the layers. Gallbladder cancer typically starts in the inner layer and spreads to the outer layers as it grows.

The chance for a cure is good when gallbladder cancer is caught early. Unfortunately, gallbladder cancer is usually discovered at a late stage.

Gallbladder cancer symptoms often don't appear until the cancer is advanced, and are similar to those of many other illnesses. Gallbladder cancer symptoms may include:

  • Upper abdominal pain, particularly on the right
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Itchiness
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Nausea
  • Your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow (jaundice)

The exact cause of gallbladder cancer is unknown, but several factors can increase your risk of developing it, including:

  • Gender - the condition is more common in women than in men
  • Race - Native Americans are more likely to have gallbladder cancer
  • Age - Risk increase as you age
  • Gallstones - Gallbladder cancer is most common in people who have had gallstones, but it is still a rare disease
  • Other gallbladder diseases can increase the risk of gallbladder cancer, including:
    • Porcelain gallbladder - calcification of the gallbladder wall
    • Choledochal cyst - congenital swelling of the hepatic or bile duct
    • Chronic gallbladder infection

Gallbladder Cancer Diagnosis

Tests that look at the gallbladder and nearby organs are used to find and diagnose gallbladder cancer. Gallbladder cancer diagnosis can be difficult because the gallbladder hides behind the liver.

Doctors at The University of Vermont Cancer Center are specially trained in advanced technology to diagnose gallbladder cancer.

Treatments for Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder cancer can be cured only if it is found and surgically removed before it spreads. If cancer has already spread, other treatments focus on improving your quality of life by controlling the symptoms and complications of this disease.

Gallbladder cancer treatment depends on the stage and location of cancer as well as other factors such as your age, overall health, and personal preferences. Your team of doctors takes all of that into account with the treatments they recommend.

Gallbladder cancer treatment options at The University of Vermont Cancer Center include:

  • Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy treats cancer by destroying cancer cells using different types of medication.
  • Surgery - Surgery may be an option. It works best if your gallbladder cancer is in an early stage. Gallbladder cancer surgeries include:
  • Cholecystectomy - This surgery removes your gallbladder.
  • Cholecystectomy and Part of the Liver - This surgery removes the gallbladder, part of the liver and bile ducts when the gallbladder cancer spreads beyond the gallbladder.
  • Radiation Therapy - Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays and protons, to destroy cancer cells.
  • Endoscopic placement of stents - When gallbladder cancer is advanced, sometimes it makes blockages in the bile ducts, which leads to further complications. Surgeons can use endoscopy to place a hollow metal tube (called stent) in a duct to hold it open.

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111 Colchester Avenue
Main Campus, Main Pavilion, Level 5
Burlington,  Vermont  05401

Monday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Tuesday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Wednesday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Thursday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Friday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

General Surgery - Main Campus

General Surgery - Main Campus


111 Colchester Avenue
Main Campus, Main Pavilion, Level 5
Burlington,  Vermont  05401

Monday 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM

Tuesday 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM

Wednesday 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM

Thursday 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM

Friday 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM