What are the symptoms of gallbladder and bile duct cancer?

Gallbladder and bile duct cancers often do not cause any signs or symptoms until the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

The most common signs of gallbladder and bile duct cancer are yellowing of the skin (jaundice) and itchy skin.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Weight loss.
  • Fever.
  • Feeling very tired or weak.
  • Bloating.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Leg swelling.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Pain above the stomach.
  • Lumps in the abdomen.

How is gallbladder and bile duct cancer diagnosed?

Most gallbladder cancers are diagnosed after the gallbladder is removed to treat gallstones or another chronic condition. Bile duct cancers are often found after symptoms appear or incidentally during an imaging test.

If your doctor suspects you have gallbladder or bile duct cancer, he or she may conduct a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Your doctor may also order diagnostic tests to pinpoint the exact type of tumor, so we can work with you to develop the best possible treatment plan. Some of the diagnostic tests include:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests, such as CT scans, ultrasounds, or PET scans.
  • Biopsy – During this procedure, we will remove a tiny piece of tissue from a tumor or suspicious area and a pathologist will examine the tissue under a microscope to see if it has cancerous cells.
  • Endoscopy – During this test, your doctor will insert a long, narrow tube through your mouth and into your digestive tract. The tube has a light and a camera on the end, which allows the doctor to check the bile ducts for signs of cancer.   
  • Laparoscopy – This is a procedure in which the surgeon makes a small cut in your abdomen and inserts a thin tube with a light and a camera on the end. This allows the doctor to look at your gallbladder, liver and bile ducts to check for signs of cancer.
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