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Gallbladder cancer

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Treatment of recurrent gallbladder cancer

The following are treatment options for recurrent gallbladder cancer. The types of treatments given are based on the unique needs of the person with cancer.

Treatment for recurrent gallbladder cancer depends on:

  • the types of treatment previously given, if any
  • where the cancer recurs
  • the person's overall health

In many cases, recurrent gallbladder cancer cannot be removed by surgery (unresectable). Treatment is usually palliative, with the goal of relieving symptoms and blockages (obstructions) of the bile ducts or other organs caused by tumour growth. Recurrent gallbladder cancer is often treated the same as stage IV gallbladder cancer.

Palliative surgery or procedures

Palliative surgery or procedures are used to relieve the symptoms of advanced gallbladder cancer. It is not used to remove the tumour. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms, such as jaundicejaundiceA condition in which the skin and whites of the eyes become yellow and urine is dark yellow. and pain, caused by a tumour that is blocking the bile duct or gallbladder. Palliative surgery or procedures that may be done include:

  • inserting a small wire or plastic tube (stent) to keep the bile duct open
  • inserting a tube (catheter) to drain bile
  • a biliary bypass to redirect the flow of bile around a blockage

Radiation therapy

External beam radiation therapy may be offered for recurrent gallbladder cancer to relieve pain and other symptoms. Radiation therapy may not be an option if the cancer recurs in the same area and was previously treated with radiation. This is because the tissues can only tolerate a certain amount of radiation therapy.


Chemotherapy may be offered to people with recurrent gallbladder cancer who are well enough to undergo treatment. The types of chemotherapy drugs that may be used depend on whether the person received chemotherapy to treat the cancer the first time. One or a combination of chemotherapy drugs may be used.

Clinical trials

People with gallbladder cancer may be offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. For more information, go to clinical trials.


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