What happens after treatment for gallbladder cancer?
For some people with gallbladder cancer, treatment can remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about cancer growing or coming back. (When cancer comes back after treatment, it is called recurrence.) This is a very common concern in people who have had cancer.
It may take a while before your fears lessen. But it may help to know that many cancer survivors have learned to live with this uncertainty and are living full lives. Our document Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence talks more about this.
For other people, the cancer may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other therapies to try to help keep the cancer under control and help relieve symptoms from it. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty. Our document When Cancer Doesn’t Go Away talks more about this (see the section “Additional resources for gallbladder cancer”).
If you have completed treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It’s very important to go to all follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask about symptoms, do physical exams, and may order blood tests or imaging tests such as CT scans.
If you have had surgery and have no signs of cancer remaining, many doctors recommend follow-up with imaging tests about every 6 months for at least the first 2 years, but not all doctors may follow this same schedule. Follow-up is needed to check for cancer recurrence or spread, as well as possible side effects of certain treatments.
This is the time for you to ask your healthcare team any questions you need answered and to discuss any concerns you might have.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to months, but others can last the rest of your life. Don’t hesitate to tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects bothering you so they can help you manage them.
Even if your cancer treatment is finished, you will probably still need to see your cancer doctor for many years. Ask what kind of follow-up schedule you can expect.
It’s also very important to keep health insurance. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this could happen.
If cancer does recur, further treatment will depend on where the cancer is, what treatments you’ve had before, and your health. For more information on how recurrent cancer is treated, see the section “Treatment options based on the extent of gallbladder cancer.” For more general information on dealing with a recurrence, you may also want to see our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence.
Seeing a new doctor
At some point after your treatment, you may be seeing a new doctor who doesn’t know anything about your medical history. It’s important to able to give your new doctor the details of your diagnosis and treatment. Gathering these details soon after treatment may be easier than trying to get them at some point in the future. Make sure you have this information handy (and always keep copies for yourself):
- A copy of your pathology report(s) from any biopsies or surgeries
- Copies of imaging tests (CT or MRI scans, etc.), which can usually be stored digitally (on a DVD, etc.)
- If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report(s)
- If you stayed in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that the doctor wrote when you were sent home
- If you had radiation therapy, a copy of the treatment summary
- If you had chemotherapy, a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
- The names and contact information of the doctors who treated your cancer
Last Medical Review: 10/29/2014
Last Revised: 01/13/2015