Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

Gallbladder cancer signs and symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain, particularly in the upper right portion of the abdomen
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Fever
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Nausea
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any signs or symptoms that worry you.

Causes

It's not clear what causes gallbladder cancer.

Doctors know that gallbladder cancer forms when healthy gallbladder cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. These mutations cause cells to grow out of control and to continue living when other cells would normally die. The accumulating cells form a tumor that can grow beyond the gallbladder and spread to other areas of the body.

Most gallbladder cancer begins in the glandular cells that line the inner surface of the gallbladder. Gallbladder cancer that begins in this type of cell is called adenocarcinoma. This term refers to the way the cancer cells appear when examined under a microscope.

Risk factors

Factors that can increase the risk of gallbladder cancer include:

  • Your sex. Gallbladder cancer is more common in women.
  • Your age. Your risk of gallbladder cancer increases as you age.
  • A history of gallstones. Gallbladder cancer is most common in people who have had gallstones in the past. Still, gallbladder cancer is very rare in these people.
  • Other gallbladder diseases and conditions. Other gallbladder conditions that can increase the risk of gallbladder cancer include gallbladder polyps and chronic gallbladder infection.
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.
  5. Warner KJ. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 10, 2017.
  6. Amin MB, et al., eds. Gallbladder. In: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 8th ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2017.