Mayo Clinic uses several types of imaging studies to detect and evaluate gallbladder cancer, as explained below. In tests that involve radiation, specialists carefully monitor doses to avoid the risk of radiation overexposure.
- Ultrasound. Ultrasound is a painless procedure in which a technician moves a wand-like device (transducer) over the surface of your abdomen. High-frequency sound waves form images on a screen that can identify a tumor in the gallbladder and bile ducts (biliary tract).
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS). For more detailed images, an ultrasound probe is passed through a flexible tube (endoscope) into your stomach and intestines (gastrointestinal tract). Sound waves are directed toward the gallbladder, and a computer translates them into images.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scans. CT scans generate cross-sectional images of the body that can show whether cancer has spread to other tissues or organs. All CT scanners at Mayo Clinic use spiral CT technology (an X-ray tube revolves around the patient) and several CT scanners use multi-detector row spiral technology, which creates three-dimensional images.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. MRI technology uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of your gallbladder, bile ducts, liver and tumor. This highly sensitive technology can identify small abnormalities in the gallbladder.
- Positron emission tomography (PET). To perform a PET scan, doctors inject sugar (glucose) and a very small amount of radiation into your bloodstream. The scan helps show if a tumor has spread, because tumors typically pick up the sugar and appear on the image as "hot spots."
- Biopsy. In a biopsy, a pathologist removes a small tissue sample and looks under a microscope for cancer cells. Doctors may use fine-needle aspiration (FNA) to collect the tissue. During an FNA procedure a doctor will give you a local anesthetic and then gently guide a small needle through your skin and abdomen into your gallbladder. Ultrasound or CT scans help the doctor locate the tumor.
Read more about ultrasound, CT scan, MRI and biopsy on MayoClinic.com.