Attention Laurel Patients:  Effective, Tues May 28th, the new Laurel office is open. The address is 7140 Contee Road, Suite 3500, Laurel, MD 20707……  Attention  Annapolis Patients: The One Community in Care event will be held on June 8th from 11am-2pm in the Annapolis parking lot.

Understanding Your Diagnosis: Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer [SERIES]

Person talking with doctor while sitting on couch

Welcome to another installment of our ongoing series, “Understanding Your Diagnosis.” This edition focuses on a lesser-known but equally important topic – gallbladder and bile duct cancer. As February marks Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month, it’s an ideal time to shed light on this condition, what it means for patients, the available treatment options, and the next steps for those recently diagnosed.

What is Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer?

Gallbladder and bile duct cancer, collectively known as biliary tract cancer, is a rare form of cancer that affects the gallbladder and bile ducts. These organs play a crucial role in digestion, making this diagnosis particularly concerning. When cancer strikes the gallbladder or bile ducts, it can be challenging to detect in its early stages, making awareness and understanding of the disease critical.

Understanding the Diagnosis

A diagnosis of gallbladder and bile duct cancer can be overwhelming, leaving patients with numerous questions and concerns. To help you comprehend your diagnosis, let’s break down some essential aspects:

Types of Biliary Tract Cancer

Gallbladder and bile duct cancer encompasses several subtypes. The most common types include:

Cholangiocarcinoma: begins in the bile ducts and can occur in different parts of the bile duct system.

Gallbladder Cancer originates in the gallbladder, a small organ beneath the liver.

Ampullary Cancer: develops in the ampulla of Vater, where the bile duct and pancreatic duct meet.


The symptoms of gallbladder and bile duct cancer can vary, but they often include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting

Diagnosis and Staging

To confirm the diagnosis and determine the stage of the cancer, your healthcare team will conduct various tests, including imaging scans, biopsies, and blood tests. Staging helps determine the extent of cancer’s spread and guides treatment decisions.

Treatment Options

Once diagnosed, it’s crucial to explore the available treatment options. The approach to treating gallbladder and bile duct cancer depends on several factors, including the cancer’s stage, location, and the patient’s overall health. Common treatment modalities include:

1. Surgery

Surgical removal of the affected organ or tumor is often the primary treatment for gallbladder and bile duct cancer. In some cases, this may involve removing a portion of the liver or other adjacent tissues.

2. Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and kill cancer cells. It may be used before or after surgery or as a palliative measure to relieve symptoms.

3. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells or stop their growth. It may be administered orally or through intravenous infusion.

4. Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapies focus on specific molecules involved in cancer growth. They are tailored to the patient’s unique genetic profile and can be highly effective.

Next Steps for Newly Diagnosed Patients

Consider seeking second and third opinions from different oncologists. Each perspective offers valuable insights into your specific case, aiding you in making informed decisions about your treatment plan. Emotional support is crucial. Lean on friends and family for strength, and consider joining a cancer support group to connect with others facing similar challenges. 

Empower yourself with knowledge about your specific cancer type and treatment options. Open and honest communication with your healthcare team ensures you understand your treatment plan and can actively participate in your care.

A diagnosis of gallbladder and bile duct cancer is challenging, but with the right information and support, you can navigate it with resilience and hope. You’re not alone, and our dedicated healthcare professionals are ready to guide you every step of the way. Embrace these proactive steps and your support network to face the challenges ahead confidently. For support and more information, contact our team at Maryland Oncology Hematology. We are here for you.