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Gallbladder cancer

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Treatment of stage I gallbladder cancer

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

Stage I gallbladder cancers are often found by accident when gallbladder surgery is done for gallstones or chronic inflammation. Gallbladder cancers found at an early stage are more likely to be completely removed by surgery (resectable) than cancers found at a later stage.


Surgery is the primary treatment for stage I gallbladder cancer. A simple cholecystectomy to remove the gallbladder is usually all that is needed for early stage gallbladder cancer.

  • This is especially true for T1a tumours because there is little chance of cancer spreading to the lymph nodes.
  • There are different approaches to the extent of surgery for T1b tumours.
    • A simple cholecystectomy may be done if the cancer has not spread outside the muscular layer and the surgical margins (margin of healthy tissue around the gallbladder removed during surgery) do not contain cancer cells.
    • The chance of cancer spreading to the lymph nodes is higher for T1b tumours compared to T1a tumours, so an extended (radical) cholecystectomy may be offered. An extended cholecystectomy may also be done if there is cancer in the cystic duct or in the part of the gallbladder closest to the liver.

There is limited data that supports giving external beam radiation therapy, with or without chemotherapy, after surgery for stage I gallbladder cancer. A few studies have reported improved survival after giving adjuvant therapyadjuvant therapyTreatment 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).. The use of adjuvant therapy after surgery is controversial. It may be offered as part of a clinical trial.

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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