Gallbladder cancer

Surgery

Gallbladder cancer

Surgery

Surgery involves removing tissues or organs from the body. The type of surgery you have depends on your cancer. You may also hear surgery called an operation or a procedure.

Every operation is different. Ask your surgeon about what to expect.

What you need to know

Surgery for gallbladder cancer

Surgery is one of the main treatments for gallbladder cancer. The type of surgery that is performed will depend on:

  • the size of the cancer
  • whether it has spread
  • your fitness and general health.

If gallbladder cancer is diagnosed early, it is possible to have surgery to remove the cancer. This may involve:

  • cholecystectomy – removal of the gallbladder
  • extended cholecystectomy – the gallbladder and part of the liver is removed
  • radical resection – the gallbladder, a large part of the live and the bile ducts are removed

if the cancer is causing a blockage in the bile duct and stopping bile from draining out of the gallbladder, then other procedures may be used to control symptoms. This is known as palliative treatment and can include:

  • biliary stent placement
  • percutaneous biliary drainage
  • biliary bypass surgery.

The procedures may be performed using surgery, interventional radiology, or ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography).

The surgical team to treat gallbladder cancer

Health professionals who work as part of the surgical team include:

  • surgeon
  • anaesthetist
  • radiologist
  • nurses
  • allied health professional.

What to ask or talk about

Possible side effects of gallbladder cancer surgery

Your surgeon will discuss any risks of the surgery with you before your operation. Most hospitals will also give you written information about the surgery and who to contact if you have any concerns.

Possible side effects and complications from any surgery include:

  • pain
  • infection
  • bleeding
  • tiredness (fatigue)
  • loss of appetite
  • blood clots.

Possible side effects and complications of gallbladder surgery include:

  • persistence or recurrence of symptoms present before surgery, such as heartburn and indigestion (sometimes called post cholecystectomy syndrome)
  • bile leak
  • diarrhoea
  • cholangitis – infection caused when bile doesn’t drain properly
  • digestion problems
  • liver failure.

Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Next steps

Preparing for surgery

Before surgery, you will need to sign a consent form. It is important you understand what you are consenting to and the possible risks of the surgery.

Some things you should know are:

  • whether you need to have tests and a preoperative assessment
  • whether you need to change or stop any medications, e.g. blood thinners like aspirin
  • when you have to stop eating and drinking
  • when you have to be there
  • whether you need time off work
  • whether you need someone to care for you at home after surgery (if you are having day surgery you will need someone to drive you home).
If you smoke, you should stop before any operation as your risk of complications from surgery is higher.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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