Diagnosis

Diagnosing gallbladder cancer

Tests and procedures used to diagnose gallbladder cancer include:

  • Blood tests. Blood tests to evaluate your liver function may help your doctor determine what's causing your signs and symptoms.
  • Procedures to create images of the gallbladder. Imaging tests that can create pictures of the gallbladder include ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Determining the extent of gallbladder cancer

Once your doctor diagnoses your gallbladder cancer, he or she works to find the extent (stage) of your cancer. Your gallbladder cancer's stage helps determine your prognosis and your treatment options.

Tests and procedures used to stage gallbladder cancer include:

  • Exploratory surgery. Your doctor may recommend surgery to look inside your abdomen for signs that gallbladder cancer has spread.

    In a procedure called laparoscopy, the surgeon makes a small incision in your abdomen and inserts a tiny camera. The camera allows the surgeon to examine organs surrounding your gallbladder for signs that the cancer has spread.

  • Tests to examine the bile ducts. Your doctor may recommend procedures to inject dye into the bile ducts. This is followed by an imaging test that records where the dye goes. These tests can show blockages in the bile ducts.

    These tests may include endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, magnetic resonance cholangiography and percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography.

  • Additional imaging tests. Most people with gallbladder cancer will undergo a series of scans to help determine whether the cancer has spread or remains localized. Which scans should be performed vary depending on your circumstances. Common scans include a CT of the chest and abdomen, ultrasonography, and an MRI of the liver.

Stages of gallbladder cancer

The stages of gallbladder cancer are:

  • Stage I. At this stage, gallbladder cancer is confined to the inner layers of the gallbladder.
  • Stage II. This stage of gallbladder cancer has grown to invade the outer layer of the gallbladder.
  • Stage III. At this stage, gallbladder cancer has grown to invade one or more nearby organs, such as the liver, small intestine or stomach. The gallbladder cancer may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV. The latest stage of gallbladder cancer includes large tumors that involve multiple nearby organs and tumors of any size that have spread to distant areas of the body.
July 28, 2017
References
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  3. Feldman M, et al., eds. Tumors of the bile ducts, gallbladder and ampulla. In: Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 19, 2017.
  4. Hepatobiliary cancer. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed June 19, 2017.
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