The outlook for gallbladder cancer may depend on the stage of cancer, tumor grade and type, and the age and overall health of the person. Surgery or medications can help to control the cancer and relieve symptoms if it has spread.
Surgery to completely remove the tumor may cure cancer that is only in the gallbladder and has not spread.
This article looks at the outlook and survival rates for people with this condition.
It also discusses the treatment options and management of gallbladder cancer.
The outlook for gallbladder cancer may depend on various factors, including:
The stage of gallbladder cancer is an important factor when considering the outlook. The outlook for early stage gallbladder cancer is better than for advanced gallbladder cancer.
Only around 1 in 10 people with gallbladder cancer have an early diagnosis because doctors more commonly find it in the advanced stages.
Tumors in the mucosa, or the inner layer of the gallbladder, may have the best outcome. Less favorable outcomes include a tumor that has spread outside of the gallbladder wall to nearby areas or lymph nodes and cancer cells that have spread throughout the abdominal area.
Surgical removal of tumor
Surgery to remove a tumor is the most effective treatment option for gallbladder cancer. In around 25 in 100 cases, surgery can completely remove a tumor in people with gallbladder cancer.
Complete removal of a tumor provides the best outlook for people with gallbladder cancer.
Surgery to completely remove gallbladder cancer before it spreads
Type of tumor
The type of tumor that a person has can affect the outlook. Papillary adenocarcinomas have a better outlook than other types of gallbladder cancer tumors.
The grade of the tumor can also affect the outlook. Low-grade tumors are slow-growing and have a better outlook than high-grade, or fast-growing, tumors.
A 5-year relative survival rate assesses the likelihood that someone will survive for 5 years after diagnosis, compared to the overall population.
The SEER database uses the following stages for gallbladder cancer survival rates. The data is from people who received a gallbladder cancer diagnosis between 2012 and 2018:
|SEER stage||Stage description||5-year relative survival rate|
|Localized||The cancer has not spread outside the gallbladder.||69%|
|Regional||The cancer has spread from the gallbladder to nearby areas or lymph nodes.||28%|
|Distant||The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body.||3%|
|All SEER stages combined||All stages combined.||20%|
People with gallbladder cancer
If gallbladder cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, a person may also have surgery to remove lymph nodes.
To remove the gallbladder, a surgeon may use a laparoscope. This is a thin tube with a light and camera that a surgeon will insert through a small incision in the abdomen.
A surgeon will use the laparoscope to guide surgical instruments through the incision to carry out the removal of the gallbladder. They may also remove tissue surrounding the incision site in case cancer cells have spread to those areas.
Surgery to remove the gallbladder
Possible complications of gallbladder removal are rare, particularly with laparoscopy, but may include:
- blood clots
- heart problems
- damage to surrounding areas, such as the bile duct or intestines
- bile leaking into the abdomen
A person will usually be able to return to their normal activities within a week of having gallbladder removal surgery.
People may find support networks and cancer resources helpful in managing the physical and emotional challenges of gallbladder cancer diagnosis and treatment. Ways of managing gallbladder cancer include:
- undergoing pain management through radiation therapy or surgery to prevent a tumor pressing on organs or nerves
- taking medication to help relieve painful symptoms
- receiving an alcohol injection to reduce pain sensation from nerve signals
- using a stent, bypass, or catheter to keep the bile duct open or drain bile to treat jaundice
- using topical anti-itch medications and wearing comfortable, loose clothing to ease itching from jaundice
- antinausea medications to help treat appetite loss
- attending any follow-up appointments after treatment, at least
every six months for the first two years
- developing a care plan with a doctor, which may include diet and lifestyle advice and managing long-term side effects
- maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, avoiding smoking, eating healthily, and maintaining a healthy weight
- seeking mental and emotional support from loved ones, support groups, or a counselor
This section answers some common questions about the outlook for gallbladder cancer.
How long do I have to live with gallbladder cancer?
The survival rates for gallbladder cancer vary depending on the stage of the cancer. The
These are previous survival rates, so advances in research may result in an improved outlook. The outlook for gallbladder cancer also depends on factors such as the type of tumor that a person has and their age and overall health.
What are some end-stage gallbladder cancer symptoms?
Symptoms of end-stage gallbladder cancer include:
- unexplained weight loss
- persistent pain or tenderness in the upper right side of the abdomen
- swelling or bloating of the abdomen
- increased liver size
- nausea and vomiting
- appetite loss
- fever and chills
Surgery to remove the gallbladder may cure early stage gallbladder cancer. Surgery and medications can help to control and manage cancer that has spread.
The outlook for gallbladder cancer depends on the stage of cancer and the type and grade of the tumor.