The gallbladder is the small organ that stores and secretes bile, into the small intestine. This process is stimulated by eating and therefore problems with the gallbladder often present with symptoms associated with eating. Gallbladder cancer is abnormal growth that begins in the lining of the gallbladder. The most common predisposing factor associated with gallbladder cancer is the presence of chronic inflammation and/or gallstones.
Gallbladder cancer can go undetected until late stages due to the lack of specific symptoms that would alarm patients and health care providers. Subtle symptoms associated with gallbladder cancer include taste disturbances and nausea. A certain number of gallbladder cancers are picked up incidentally when the gallbladder is removed for gallstones. Advanced stage gallbladder cancer can present with a liver mass and/or jaundice.
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|1. Gallbladder Cancer Diagnosis|
|2. Gallbladder Cancer Treatment|
|3. Gallbladder Cancer Specialists|
|4. Gallbladder Cancer Research|
Gallbladder Cancer Diagnosis
One or more of the following tools may aid gallbladder cancer diagnosis:
- Clinical examination. When present, yellowing of the complexion known as jaundice can be present.
- Bloodwork. Subtle changes in liver function tests can be noted.
- Cross section imaging with CT scan or MRI. Both these tests are excellent for detecting abnormalities related to gallbladder cancer and help health care providers determine eligibility for resection.
- Fine needle aspiration biopsy. Removing tissue or fluid with a needle for examination under a microscope.
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).These are advanced imaging technologies used to take pictures of the gastrointestinal tract. EUS combines endoscopy with the imaging capabilities of ultrasound to obtain high-quality images of organs deep inside the body. ECRP, a minimally invasive imaging procedure, is used to diagnose conditions of the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts and pancreas. This is particularly helpful when the gallbladder cancer presents with jaundice.
- Genetic counseling. Discussing personal and family medical history of certain gastrointestinal conditions and the possibility of genetic testing.
- Genetic testing. Identifying specific genetic factors that put you at greater risk for developing gastrointestinal cancers.
The Indiana University Health Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center team comprises more than a dozen highly specialized physicians with instant access to leading edge diagnostic technology. Because of this, you can receive comprehensive diagnostic services and treatment recommendations in one visit.
Gallbladder Cancer Treatment
Unlike many cancer specialists elsewhere, our multidisciplinary team is focused solely on gastrointestinal cancers.
- Medical oncologists
- Radiation oncologists
- Surgical oncologists
These specialists working together develop a customized treatment plan for you. This treatment plan takes into consideration the location and extent of your cancer, plus your general health and life situation. We also provide a nurse coordinator who can help you better understand and make adjustments to what is usually a complex care plan.
Our multidisciplinary team provides a full range of treatment options.
- Surgery. Removing cancer in an operation and, if the tumor is large, removing a small amount of healthy tissue around it.
- Chemotherapy. Destroying cancer cells with drugs.
- Radiation therapy that uses high energy, penetrating waves or particles to destroy cancer cells or keep them from reproducing.
- Immunotherapy. Stimulating your immune system to fight cancer.
- Stent placement. Placing a support device in the gastrointestinal tract to keep it from closing up.
- Palliative care. Relieving pain and symptoms to improve your quality of life.
Radiation therapy treatments can include:
- Computed Tomography (CT) Simulation. A radiation planning process using a CT scan to define tumor targets and internal anatomy in three dimensions to enable the radiation oncologist to precisely target the tumor while saving normal tissues.
- Four-Dimensional CT Simulation. A CT simulation which also visualizes internal anatomy changes (such as changes in tumor location with the breathing cycle) allowing the radiation oncologist to target the tumor more accurately and further spare normal tissues.
- Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT). Uses precise radiographic imaging to more precisely target tumors while sparing normal tissues.
- Cone-Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT). An IGRT technique that uses a limited CT scan prior to treatment to target internal anatomy in three dimensions.
- Three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy. Guided by a computer-generated three-dimensional picture of the tumor, allowing the highest possible dose of radiation while sparing the normal tissue as much as possible.
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). Advanced radiation delivery that allows delivery of radiation to areas surrounded or in close proximity to radiation sensitive tissues by using a computerized optimization algorithm.
- Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT). Special equipment is used to precisely deliver a large radiation dose to a tumor and not to normal tissue.
- Proton Beam Radiation. Particle radiation that can be used to treat tumors in close proximity to critical radiation sensitive tissues.
Gallbladder Cancer Specialists
Gallbladder Cancer Research
Clinical research at IU Health Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center is focused on finding new, more effective treatments for gastrointestinal cancers. This research is essential for ongoing improvements to current treatment options. We are at the forefront of cancer care discoveries. Our patients are among the first to benefit from this expertise, having access to all current treatments plus new clinical trial options.
Current research in gallbladder cancer includes looking at biomarkers of GB cancer risk by evaluating bile and serum in patients at risk.
More information about cancer research can be found on the Indiana University School of Medicine website.
The primary focus of current clinical trials at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center is development of new treatments to replace current treatments for gastrointestinal cancers. The quantity and extent of these trials is unique in Indiana and demonstrates the leadership of this program in the treatment of gastrointestinal cancers.