Gallbladder Cancer

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After Treatment TOPICS

Lifestyle changes after having gallbladder cancer

You can’t change the fact that you have had cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life – making choices to help you stay healthy and feel as well as you can. This can be a time to look at your life in new ways. Maybe you are thinking about how to improve your health over the long term. Some people even start during cancer treatment.

Making healthier choices

For many people, a diagnosis of cancer helps them focus on their health in ways they may not have thought much about in the past. Are there things you could do that might make you healthier? Maybe you could try to eat better or get more exercise. Maybe you could cut down on alcohol, or give up tobacco. Even things like keeping your stress level under control may help. Now is a good time to think about making changes that can have positive effects for the rest of your life. You will feel better and you will also be healthier.

You can start by working on those things that worry you most. Get help with those that are harder for you. For instance, if you are thinking about quitting smoking and need help, call the American Cancer Society for information and support. Our tobacco cessation and coaching service can help increase your chances of quitting for good.

Eating better

Eating right can be hard for anyone, but it can get even tougher during and after cancer treatment. This is especially true for cancers of the gallbladder. The cancer or its treatment may affect your appetite or alter how you digest foods. Nausea can be a problem. You may not feel like eating and lose weight when you don’t want to. All of these things can be very frustrating.

If treatment causes weight changes or eating or taste problems, do the best you can and keep in mind that these problems usually get better over time. You may find it helps to eat small portions every 2 to 3 hours until you feel better.

If eating problems last a long time, your doctor may have you see a nutritionist, who can work with you and give you information about your individual nutritional needs. They might recommend that you use nutritional supplements, which can help you maintain your weight and nutritional intake. For serious nutrition problems, the doctor might need to put a feeding tube into the stomach to improve nutrition and energy levels. This is usually temporary. For more information and nutrition tips for during and after cancer treatment, see our document Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment: A Guide for Patients and Families.

See the “Additional resources for gallbladder cancer” section for a list of some other documents that may be helpful, including some with our nutrition information.

Rest, fatigue, and exercise

Extreme tiredness, called fatigue, is very common in people treated for cancer. This is not a normal tiredness, but a bone-weary exhaustion that often doesn’t get better with rest. For some people, fatigue lasts a long time after treatment, and can make it hard for them to be active and do other things they want to do. But exercise can help reduce fatigue. Studies have shown that patients who follow an exercise program tailored to their personal needs feel better physically and emotionally and can cope better, too.

If you were sick and not very active during treatment, it’s normal for your fitness, endurance, and muscle strength to decline. Any plan for physical activity should fit your own situation. If you haven’t been active in a few years, you will have to start slowly – maybe just by taking short walks.

Talk with your healthcare team before starting anything. Get their opinion about your exercise plans. Then, try to find an exercise buddy so you’re not doing it alone. Having family or friends involved when starting a new activity program can give you that extra boost of support to keep you going when the push just isn’t there.

If you are very tired, you will need to learn to balance activity with rest. It’s OK to rest when you need to. Sometimes it’s really hard for people to allow themselves to rest when they are used to working all day or taking care of a household, but this is not the time to push yourself too hard. Listen to your body and rest when you need to. (For more information on dealing with fatigue, see Fatigue in People With Cancer and Anemia in People With Cancer. A list of some other documents that may be helpful in dealing with side effects can be found in the “Additional resources for gallbladder cancer” section.)

Keep in mind exercise can improve your physical and emotional health.

  • It improves your cardiovascular (heart and circulation) fitness.
  • Along with a good diet, it will help you get to and stay at a healthy weight.
  • It makes your muscles stronger.
  • It reduces fatigue and helps you have more energy.
  • It can help lower anxiety and depression.
  • It can make you feel happier.
  • It helps you feel better about yourself.

Getting regular physical activity also plays a role in helping to lower the risk of some cancers, as well as having other health benefits.

Can I lower my risk of gallbladder cancer progressing or coming back?

Most people want to know if they can make certain lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of cancer progressing or coming back. Unfortunately, for most cancers there isn’t much solid evidence to guide people. This doesn’t mean that nothing will help — it’s just that for the most part this is an area that hasn’t been well studied. Most studies have looked at lifestyle changes as ways of preventing cancer in the first place, not slowing it down or preventing it from coming back.

At this time, not enough is known about gallbladder cancer to say for sure if there are things you can do that will help. Healthy behaviors such as not smoking, eating well, and staying at a healthy weight might help, but no one knows for sure. But we do know that these types of changes can have positive effects on your health that can extend beyond your risk of gallbladder cancer or other cancers.

So far, no dietary supplements have been shown to clearly help lower the risk of gallbladder cancer progressing or coming back. Again, this doesn’t mean that none will help, but it’s important to know that none have been proven to do so.


Last Medical Review: 10/29/2014
Last Revised: 10/29/2014