Surgery for gallbladder cancer can be successful at removing cancer cells, particularly when doctors diagnose the cancer at an early stage and the person is in otherwise good health.
This article discusses surgery as a treatment for gallbladder cancer, including success rates, the different types of surgery, potential risks, and other treatment options.
The success rate of surgery
- Stage of the cancer: Surgery is most effective in treating gallbladder cancer in its early stages. If the cancer has spread to other organs or tissues, surgery may be part of a combination of treatments and is less likely to result in a cure.
- Overall health: People in good general health are more suitable candidates for surgery and more likely to have a successful outcome.
- Surgeon’s experience: The expertise and experience of the surgeon also play a crucial role in the effectiveness of the surgery.
Learn more about gallbladder cancer surgery.
A 2021 study examined 461 people who had a surgical resection for gallbladder cancer from 1988 to 2013. The study’s authors found that the 5-year survival rate following this treatment was 57%.
A smaller 2020 study looked at the outcomes of people with a gallbladder cancer diagnosis after laparoscopic cholecystectomy, a type of surgery to remove the gallbladder.
The study’s authors found that
In the early stages, surgery for gallbladder cancer is
A person’s individual circumstances and the stage and progression of their gallbladder cancer will determine the type or combination of surgeries that will suit them.
Speaking with a surgical oncologist who specializes in treating gallbladder and other hepato-biliary cancers is crucial to determine the best surgical approach.
It is most effective when the cancer is localized to the gallbladder and has not spread to nearby tissues or distant organs.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) lists the
- Simple cholecystectomy: This is where doctors remove the gallbladder. This is typically for early stage gallbladder cancers.
- Extended (or radical) cholecystectomy: Surgeons remove the gallbladder, a portion of the liver, segments of the bile duct, and nearby lymph nodes. They may do this when the cancer has spread beyond the gallbladder but is still relatively localized.
Palliative surgeries do not intend to cure the cancer but to relieve symptoms or complications, improving the affected person’s quality of life.
Doctors typically perform them when the cancer is advanced or curative surgery is not an option. Some palliative surgeries
- Biliary bypass: If the tumor blocks the small intestine and causes bile to build up in the liver, a biliary bypass can help by rerouting the flow of bile from the common bile duct directly to the small intestine.
- Endoscopic stent placement: Instead of rerouting the bile duct, doctors can place a thin tube called a stent inside to keep it open, allowing bile to flow into the small intestine.
- Percutaneous transhepatic biliary drainage (PTBD): In this procedure, surgeons insert a catheter through the skin directly into the liver to drain bile from the liver into the small intestine or a bag outside the body.
As with all surgeries, operations for gallbladder cancer come with potential risks and side effects.
The severity and likelihood of these complications can vary based on the person’s overall health, the extent of the surgery, the experience of the surgical team, and other individual factors.
According to the ACS, some general risks and side effects of surgery for gallbladder cancer
Gallbladder cancer may require a combination of treatments or alternative therapies to surgery, especially when a doctor diagnoses it at a later stage. Other treatment options that a doctor
Anyone with gallbladder cancer should speak with their healthcare team to find out if surgery is appropriate for their situation. While surgery
An early diagnosis is
Surgery is a primary treatment for gallbladder cancer when a person has an early diagnosis. Surgery success rates vary based on the cancer’s stage, the person’s health, and the surgeon’s experience.
Surgery may not be as successful for people with more advanced cancers. However, surgeons can perform surgery for palliative reasons in these cases.
Other palliative treatment options can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy.