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Gallbladder cancer

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Radiation therapy for gallbladder cancer

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. Radiation may be used for gallbladder cancer:

  • to relieve pain or to control the symptoms of advanced gallbladder cancer (palliative radiation therapy)
  • as the main treatment, with or without chemotherapy, to destroy cancer cells in gallbladder tumours that cannot be removed by surgery (are unresectable)
  • after gallbladder surgery to destroy cancer cells left behind and to reduce the risk of the cancer recurring (adjuvantadjuvantTreatment given in addition to the first-line therapy (the first or standard treatment) to help reduce the risk of a disease (such as cancer) coming back (recurring). radiation therapy)
    • Few research studies support the effectiveness of radiation therapy in treating gallbladder cancer after surgery. It isn’t clear if this therapy helps people live longer. Because gallbladder cancer is rare, few people have had treatment with radiation therapy in these situations, which makes it difficult to fully evaluate its effectiveness.

The amount of radiation given during treatment, and when and how it is given, will be different for each person. Radiation treatments are usually given 5 days per week for several weeks.

External beam radiation therapy

Gallbladder cancer is usually treated with external beam radiation therapy. A machine directs radiation to the tumour and some of the surrounding tissue. Radiation therapy may be given along with chemotherapy drugs (radiosensitizers), which may make the radiation more effective. Giving radiation therapy and chemotherapy together may be called chemoradiation.

Unresectable gallbladder tumours that have spread too far to be completely removed by surgery may be treated with external beam radiation therapy.

A gallbladder tumour can block the bile duct and cause jaundicejaundiceA condition in which the skin and whites of the eyes become yellow and urine is dark yellow. or pain, if it presses on nerves. Palliative radiation therapy may be used to shrink a gallbladder tumour and help relieve symptoms if it is blocking the gallbladder, bile ducts or the small intestine.

Radiation therapy may also be used after surgery in the area where the gallbladder was removed.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about radiation therapy.


Dr Camilla Zimmermann Dr Camilla Zimmermann provided a model for early palliative care.

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Facing the financial burden of cancer

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The Canadian Cancer Society provides helpful information about government income programs, financial resources and other resources available to families struggling to make sense of the personal financial burden they face.

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