Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of these may be used treat gallbladder cancer. Depending on the stage of the disease, your MSK care team will determine the most appropriate treatment plan for you.
Surgery is the preferred treatment for gallbladder cancer and offers the best chance for a cure. For tumors that have not spread beyond the gallbladder, the most effective procedure is called a radical cholecystectomy. In this procedure, a surgeon removes the gallbladder, nearby lymph nodes, and some of the tissue surrounding the organs. More-extensive surgery may be done if the cancer has spread.
Some people with gallbladder cancer can’t have surgery because the tumor has spread or is in too difficult a place to be entirely removed by surgery. The tumor may be blocking bile from draining out of the gallbladder, causing discomfort. At MSK, we can use minimally invasive, image-guided procedures to remove blockages and relieve symptoms.
Chemotherapy is a drug or combination of drugs that kills cancer cells wherever they are in the body. Several chemotherapy approaches have been shown to shrink gallbladder tumors and possibly improve survival.
Radiation may be used for people with gallbladder tumors that cannot be removed by surgery. The radiation may be given alone or in combination with chemotherapy and other treatments.
Why should I choose Memorial Sloan Kettering for gallbladder cancer treatment?
At MSK, we offer:
- A multidisciplinary team of experts who are highly experienced in the treatment of gallbladder cancer. This includes world-class specialists in surgery, chemotherapy, radiology, pathology, nursing, and social work. Input from several experts is an essential part of care plans at MSK, since many people with gallbladder cancer will receive more than one type of treatment.
- Close collaboration among these experts. Members of our gallbladder cancer team meet regularly to discuss the treatment of the people we care for. We bring a variety of clinical perspectives to develop an individualized care plan for each patient.
- Highly skilled surgeons who use a variety of advanced approaches to remove gallbladder tumors.
- Medical oncologists with vast experience in giving chemotherapy to people with gallbladder cancer. We carefully tailor treatments to be as effective as possible while minimizing side effects.
- Radiation oncologists who use advanced techniques to treat gallbladder tumors that cannot be removed by surgery. We also use radiation to shrink tumors before surgery or, after surgery, to treat the area where the gallbladder once was to prevent the cancer from returning. This includes delivering radiation guided by highly sophisticated imaging approaches that are not available at most hospitals.
- Minimally invasive symptom relief for people who are not candidates for surgery.
- Access to clinical trials investigating new and improved treatments for gallbladder cancer. Sometimes these studies offer therapies years before they are available anywhere else.
- A comprehensive program to support the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people with gallbladder cancer during and after treatment. This includes nurses who are trained specifically to care for people with gallbladder cancer during outpatient chemotherapy or after surgery.
- Flexibility in how and where to receive treatment. Our specialists are conveniently located in Manhattan and at our regional outpatient locations in New Jersey, on Long Island, and in Westchester County. This provides our patients with the same outstanding care from MSK doctors but closer to home.