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Gallbladder cancer

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Treatment of stage IV gallbladder cancer

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

People with stage IV gallbladder cancer have advanced disease that 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.

Palliative surgery or procedures

Palliative surgery or procedures may be used to relieve the symptoms of stage IV gallbladder cancer, but are 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. Palliative surgery or procedures that may be done include:

  • inserting a small metal or plastic tube (stent) to keep the bile duct open
  • inserting a tube (catheter) to help drain bile
  • a biliary bypass to create an alternate drainage route for bile around a blockage

Radiation therapy

External beam radiation therapy, with or without chemotherapy, may be offered for stage IV gallbladder cancer to relieve pain and other symptoms.


Chemotherapy may be offered to people with stage IV gallbladder cancer who are well enough to undergo chemotherapy treatment. This may include single chemotherapy drugs or combinations of drugs to try to slow the growth of the cancer.

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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