Our Approach to Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder and bile duct cancer is a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the tissues of the gallbladder, an organ that stores bile (bile is a fluid made by the liver to digest fat), or the bile duct that carries bile from the liver. When food is being broken down in the stomach and intestines, bile is released from the gallbladder through the common bile duct, which connects the gallbladder and liver to the first part of the small intestine.

Patients who come to the Siteman Cancer Center for treatment of gallbladder and bile duct cancers are seen by a team of Washington University Physicians — surgical, medical and radiation oncologists — often during the same visit.  A health psychologist is also available as needed.

Experienced nurses then spend time with you, answering your questions and putting you in touch with resources that may help during this stressful time. These nurses offer patient materials on your condition, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and other related issues. As a unique feature of your care, we also offer the services of a palliative care specialist who can help you fit treatment into your own special circumstances, if needed.

Siteman is one of the top centers in the United States for treating gallbladder and bile duct cancer, which includes cancer of the liver, gallbladder and bile duct, because of our highly skilled surgeons. You benefit from treatment performed in this kind of specialized, high-volume center, which produces better outcomes.

Some 11,000 new cases of gallbladder and bile duct cancer develop each year in the United States. The experts at Siteman see more of those cases than anyone in the area. Gallbladder cancer is typically found in later stages, so the diagnostic and treatment expertise at Siteman can be critical to management of this disease.

For localized cancer, surgery to remove the gallbladder and surrounding tissue, including lymph nodes, may be used followed by radiation or chemotherapy. For recurrent tumors that cannot be removed or metastasized cancer, surgery may be done to ease symptoms and improve quality of life, as can radiation or chemotherapy.

Types of treatment used for gallbladder and bile duct cancer depend on the type of cancer, its malignancy, the stage at which it is diagnosed, whether the cancer has spread outside the gallbladder, the patient’s age, and overall health.

Siteman cancer physicians are actively involved in clinical trials that investigate new chemotherapy regimens, and other approaches to cure. Having your cancer treated at Siteman gives you access to new therapies that are as good as – or potentially better than – current standard therapies available elsewhere.