Can Gallbladder Cancer Be Found Early?

Gallbladder cancer is hard to find early (when it's small and only in the gallbladder). 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 removed gallbladder is looked at in the lab, small cancers or pre-cancers that didn't cause any symptoms are sometimes found.

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Last Medical Review: July 12, 2018 Last Revised: July 12, 2018

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