Signs and Symptoms of Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder cancer does not usually cause signs or symptoms until later in the course of the disease, but sometimes symptoms can appear sooner and lead to an early diagnosis. If the cancer is found at an earlier stage, treatment might be more effective.

Some of the more common symptoms of gallbladder cancer are:

Abdominal (belly) pain

Most people with gallbladder cancer will have abdominal pain. Most often this is in the upper right part of the belly.

Nausea and/or vomiting

People with gallbladder cancer sometimes have vomiting as a symptom.

Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes. If the cancer grows large enough to block the bile ducts, bile from the liver can’t drain into the intestines. This can cause bilirubin (a chemical in bile that gives it a yellow color) to build up in the blood and settle in different parts of the body. This can often be seen in the skin and eyes.

Lumps in the belly

If the cancer blocks the bile ducts, the gallbladder can swell to larger than normal. Gallbladder cancer can also spread to nearby parts of the liver. These can sometimes be felt by the doctor as lumps on the right side of the belly. They can also be detected by imaging tests such as an ultrasound.

Other symptoms

Less common symptoms of gallbladder cancer include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Swelling in the abdomen (belly)
  • Fever
  • Itchy skin
  • Dark urine
  • Light-colored or greasy stools

Gallbladder cancer is not common, and these symptoms and signs are more likely to be caused by something other than gallbladder cancer. For example, people with gallstones also have many of these symptoms. There are many far more common causes of abdominal pain than gallbladder cancer. And viral hepatitis (infection of the liver) is a much more common cause of jaundice. Still, if you have any of these problems, it’s important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: October 29, 2014 Last Revised: February 5, 2016

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