A gallbladder cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation.
If the cancer is detected at an early stage (stage 1 for example), the tumor can be completely removed surgically; in fact, total removal of the gallbladder may lead to complete recovery. In most cases, unfortunately, the cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage. In this case, surgery is performed to reduce the symptoms and improve life.
If the tumor has already crossed the mucosa of the gallbladder, it will be removed along with the regional lymph nodes. Furthermore, if the duodenum, pancreas, and organs close to the gallbladder are also affected, your surgeon will remove them and do an artificial communication between your stomach and bile ducts.
Surgery is not without side effects; nearly 20% of patients have diarrhea for a prolonged period after the removal of their gallbladder.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be used with the surgery. However, the effectiveness of chemotherapy in the treatment of gallbladder cancer is rare; it does prove useful for a very few patients only. Radiotherapy provides practically no results, for gallbladder cancer is barely sensitive to radiation.
Chemotherapy is the use of powerful chemical agents to destroy cancer cells. Unlike surgery and radiotherapy, chemotherapy is a systematic therapy that affects your body in its entirety. In most cases, the medications will be given approximately five times per week over a period of three months. The drugs can be taken orally or intravenous injection; your oncologist will chose the method he thinks will be more effective.
The chemotherapy drugs always cause side effects; the most common include:
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- loss of hair loss
- low sex desire
- menstrual irregularity
- increased risk of infections.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment consisting using high-powered beams of energy to destroy cancer cells by preventing them from dividing. Unlike chemotherapy, radiation acts locally on the tumor and a small surrounding healthy tissue.
Although it less toxic than chemotherapy, radiation therapy can also cause adverse effects such as fatigue, nausea and redness of the skin. Contact your doctor immediately if develop sever skin reaction after the radiotherapy.