Surgical removal may be the most common and most effective treatment of gallbladder cancer. A completely curative resection is however possible only in a minority of patients. This is because most patients present in an advanced stage of the cancer when surgery may not be possible.
When possible, gallbladder and nearby tissues (including lymph nodes) are removed. Surgery is associated with significant mortality and morbidity. In cases where operative removal is not possible, alternatives are called in:
Surgical biliary bypass: a new pathway for drainage of bile is created
Endoscopic stent placement: A stent (thin, flexible tube) is used to drain the bile into the small intestine.
Percutaneous transhepatic biliary drainage: this is also a procedure for draining bile
These procedures relieve the patient of jaundice.
Apart from surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also available.Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment where high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation are used to kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy.
In External radiation therapy
, a machine outside the body is used to send radiation toward the cancer. The total dose of radiation therapy is sometimes divided into several smaller, equal doses which are delivered over a period of time spanning over several days. In Internal radiation therapy
, a radioactive substance is placed directly into or near the cancer. The type of radiation therapy used depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.Chemotherapy
Here drugs are used to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by preventing them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body, this is called systemic chemotherapy.
In regional chemotherapy
drugs are placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity.
A new modality being tested in clinical trials is the use of radiosensitizers:Radio sensitizers
These drugs are used in combination with radiation therapy so that a larger number of tumor cells can be killed. Radio sensitizers increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to radiation.