Gallbladder Cancer

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Can gallbladder cancer be found early?

Gallbladder cancer is hard to find early. The gallbladder is deep inside the body, so early tumors can’t be seen or felt during routine physical exams. There are no blood tests or other tests that can reliably detect gallbladder cancers early enough to be useful as screening tests. (Screening is testing for cancer in people without any symptoms.) Because of this, most gallbladder cancers are found only after the cancer has grown enough to cause signs or symptoms.

Still, some gallbladder cancers are found before they have spread to other tissues and organs. Many of these early cancers are found unexpectedly when a person’s gallbladder is removed because of gallstones. When the gallbladder is looked at in the lab after it is removed, small cancers or pre-cancers that did not cause any symptoms are sometimes found.

Last Medical Review: 10/29/2014
Last Revised: 02/05/2016