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Gallbladder cancer doesn't usually cause signs or symptoms until later in the course of the disease, when the tumor is large and/or has spread. But sometimes symptoms can appear sooner and lead to an early diagnosis. If the cancer is found at an earlier stage, treatment might work better.
Some of the more common symptoms of gallbladder cancer include:
Most people with gallbladder cancer will have belly pain. Most often it's in the upper right part of the belly.
Some people with gallbladder cancer sometimes have vomiting as a symptom.
If the cancer gets big enough to block the bile ducts, bile from the liver can’t drain into the intestines. This can cause a greenish-yellow chemical (called bilirubin) in the bile to build up in the blood and settle in different parts of the body. The yellow coloring of jaundice can often be seen in the skin and the white part of the eyes.
If the cancer blocks the bile ducts, the gallbladder can swell. Gallbladder cancer can also spread to nearby parts of the liver. These changes can sometimes be felt by the doctor as lumps on the right side of the belly. They can also be seen on imaging tests such as an ultrasound.
Less common symptoms of gallbladder cancer include:
Keep in mind: Gallbladder cancer is rare. These symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than gallbladder cancer. For example, people with gallstones have many of these same symptoms. And there are many far more common causes of belly pain than gallbladder cancer. Also, hepatitis (liver inflammation caused by a viral infection) is a much more common cause of jaundice.
Still, if you have any of these problems, it’s important to see a doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Abou-Alfa GK, Jarnagin W, Lowery M, D’Angelica M, Brown K, Ludwig E, Covey A, Kemeny N, Goodman KA, Shia J, O’Reilly EM. Liver and bile duct cancer. In: Neiderhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA. Elsevier; 2014:1373-1395.
Patel T, Borad MJ. Carcinoma of the biliary tree. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015:715-735.
Last Revised: July 12, 2018