Gallbladder Cancer

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Can gallbladder cancer be found early?

Because of the gallbladder’s location, early tumors cannot be seen or felt during routine physical exams. There are currently 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.) Without effective screening tests, most gallbladder cancers are found only when the cancer has grown enough to cause symptoms. (See the next section, “How is gallbladder cancer diagnosed?”)

Still, about 1 out of 5 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 as treatment for 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: 06/12/2013
Last Revised: 02/06/2014