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Gallbladder/Bile Duct Cancer

Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

UT Southwestern Medical Center offers comprehensive, advanced treatments for patients with cancers of the gallbladder and biliary tract. Our surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, and gastroenterology specialists have expertise in these difficult-to- treat cancers. We offer the latest surgical techniques and clinical trials not available at other hospitals.

As the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in North Texas, we deliver the best cancer care available today and push to discover new treatments. NCI designation means we offer patients the ability to participate in the broadest possible range of clinical trials, with access to potential therapies not available at other facilities.

Specialists in GI Cancers Including Gallbladder Cancer

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ under the liver that stores bile, a fluid needed for digestion. As the stomach and intestines digest food, the gallbladder releases bile through the bile duct, which connects the gallbladder and the liver to the small intestine.

When cancer occurs in either the gallbladder or the bile duct, UT Southwestern’s gastrointestinal cancer experts have the experience to treat it. These cancers require multidisciplinary care involving physicians from multiple specialties, and, as a result, not every hospital can treat them. Working with each patient, our team of specialists will determine the most appropriate treatment for every situation.

Symptoms

Typically, gallbladder and bile duct cancer cause few symptoms until they reach an advanced stage and have spread.

For bile duct cancer in particular, jaundice (when the skin and whites of the eyes become yellow, urine darkens, and stool color lightens) and itchy skin are often the first signs.

Other symptoms include:

  • General feeling of poor health or weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Swelling in the legs

Diagnosis

Gallbladder cancer is most often discovered during surgery to remove the gallbladder to treat gallstones or other conditions. Bile duct cancer is usually not diagnosed until a patient becomes jaundiced, but it might be found if a patient is tested for abnormal liver function. Occasionally, bile duct cancer will be identified on a computed tomography (CT) scan performed for another reason.

Blood tests, diagnostic imaging, biopsy, or a combination of these tests are typically used to diagnose and stage gallbladder cancer or bile duct cancer.

Treatments

Depending on the stage of the cancer, treatment might include surgery, chemotherapy, biologic therapy, or radiation therapy.

If surgery is an option, it is the preferred treatment for gallbladder or bile duct cancer. Our expert surgeons might perform a cholecystectomy, bile duct surgery, partial hepatectomy, or pancreas surgery, depending on the location of the tumor.

If surgery is not an option because of the patient’s overall health or because the cancer has spread, we offer minimally invasive, image-guided procedures to drain bile from the gallbladder or the bile duct. These procedures don’t cure the cancer, but they can provide symptom relief and allow patients to receive other treatments that can extend and improve their life.

Our medical oncologists might prescribe chemotherapy or novel immunotherapies to shrink a gallbladder or bile duct tumor. For patients with cancers that cannot be removed, chemotherapy can be an important treatment to improve symptoms and extend life.

Radiation might be administered alone or in combination with chemotherapy or other treatments. Precise delivery of radiation by experienced radiation oncologists and technicians like those at UT Southwestern is especially important in gallbladder cancer and bile duct cancer because of the location of these structures. Our doctors have developed methods to more precisely deliver radiation to these difficult-to- treat areas.

Learn more about treatments for gastrointestinal cancers.

Support Services

UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center offers an array of support services to people undergoing treatment for gallbladder and bile duct cancer – and even for those who have been treated in the past. These services range from survivorship seminars to nutrition counseling and support groups.

Clinical Trials

UT Southwestern offers clinical trials that can provide patients with an opportunity to complement traditional therapy for gallbladder or bile duct cancer with the newest, most promising treatment strategies. Patients should talk with their doctors about clinical trials.

Related Conditions and Treatments

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Showing 8 locations

Digestive Disease

at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Las Colinas 701 Tuscan Drive, 2nd Floor, Suite 210
Irving, Texas 75039
214-964-0670 Directions

Digestive Disease

at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Park Cities 8611 Hillcrest Road, 3rd Floor, Suite 300
Dallas, Texas 75225
214-692-3175 Directions Parking Info

Outpatient Building

1801 Inwood Road
Dallas, Texas 75390
214-645-8300 Directions Parking Info