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Gallbladder Cancer


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The gallbladder is a small organ that's pear-shaped and located beneath the liver. Both the gallbladder and liver are behind the lower ribs on the right side. In adults, the gallbladder is around 3 or 4 inches long and typically no wider than an inch.

The purpose of the gallbladder is to concentrate and store bile, which is a fluid produced in the liver. Bile aids in the digestion of fats as they go through the small intestine. Bile can be released from the liver directly into bile ducts that carry it to the small intestine. Bile can be stored in the gallbladder and released later.        

Types of Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder cancers are labeled by where they start. Each type can cause different symptoms. These cancers can be:       

  • Adenocarcinoma: Approximately nine out of 10 gallbladder cancer cases are adenocarcinomas. An adenocarcinoma is a kind of cancer that begins in cells with gland-like properties. Gallbladder adenocarcinoma starts in cells that line the inside of the digestive system.
  • Papillary adenocarcinoma or Papillary cancer: Around six percent of all gallbladder cancer cases are papillary adenocarcinomas. When seen under a microscope, the cells in these cancers look like finger-like projections. Papillary cancers do not usually grow into the liver or nearby lymph nodes.
  • Rare Gallbladder Cancers: Adenosquamous carcinomas, small cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and sarcomas can develop in the gallbladder but are not common.

Why Choose Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Sylvester is an NCI-designated cancer center. The National Cancer Institute has recognized Sylvester for its outstanding work conducting research in its laboratories, treating patients in its clinics and hospitals, and reaching out to medically underserved communities with innovative prevention strategies.

High volume experience with gallbladder and bile duct/biliary cancers. You get better treatment outcomes and fewer potential complications.

Leading laparoscopic and robotic-assisted surgery expertise. We offer greater precision and faster recovery for our gallbladder surgery patients.

Advanced radiation oncology tools. Sylvester was the first medical center in Florida, and the fourth in the country to offer resonance magnetic-guided radiation therapy. Our team is a leader in that domain. Our RapidArc® radiotherapy system delivers intensity-modulated external radiation therapy (IMRT). These tools lead to more efficient and effective treatments, shorter treatment times, pinpoint accuracy in tumor targeting and less damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Finally, our radiation oncology department also offers proton beam therapy in our state-of-the-art Dwoskin Proton Therapy Center.

More cancer clinical trials than any other South Florida hospital. If appropriate for your cancer and stage, our clinical trials provide you with the very newest ways to treat and potentially cure your cancer.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.


Many factors determine the  best treatment for your cancer: tumor size, location, stage, your body, lifestyle and your overall health. The experts at Sylvester will work together to devise the most effective treatment plan for you.        

  • Surgery 

    The goal of surgery is usually to remove all or as much of the tumor as possible. Types of surgery include:

    • Simple cholecystectomy: This procedure removes the gallbladder or a part of it. 

    • Extended or radical cholecystectomy: When the gallbladder, plus nearby tissues are removed. This surgery may include removal of  some of the liver, the bile duct, and lymph nodes. 

    • Robotic-Assisted Whipple Procedure (Pancreaticoduodenectomy): Removal of nearby organs affected by cancers in the lower part of the bile duct. Our expertise offers smaller incisions, less blood loss, and potentially faster recovery time.
  • Radiation Therapy 

    We use external beam radiation to precisely targeted to your tumor and delivered from outside the body. It can also be used to relieve symptoms. Advanced technology working for you includes intensity modulated external radiation therapy (IMRT) and ViewRay MRI-guided radiation therapy.     

  • Chemotherapy (Systemic Medical Therapy) 

    Chemotherapy is usually given in a treatment plan with surgery or radiation therapy to increase impact. Typically, a combination of cancer-fighting drugs is administered intravenously or by pill orally (by mouth).

    • If you require intravenous (infusion) chemotherapy, you can receive it at the Comprehensive Treatment Unit (CTU) at Sylvester's main location in Miami. It's a 12,000-square-foot unit that includes 33 recliners and 11 private rooms. If you prefer, you can have your infusion treatments at the Kendall and Deerfield Beach locations.

  • Targeted Therapy 

    Designed to attack the molecular changes or alterations that make cancer cells grow and spread. Targeted therapies are available for select patients, as recommended by your Sylvester oncologist.

  • Immunotherapy (Biologic Therapy) 

    Immunotherapy uses medicines to tap into the power of the body's immune systems to fight cancer. 


Beyond a careful and complete medical history and physical examination, procedures for diagnosing gallbladder or bile duct cancer may include:

  • Blood Tests 

    • Liver function/enzyme tests: A blood test to detect  inflammation or damage to the liver caused by gallbladder cancer.

    • Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and CA 19-9 assays: Tests that measure the level of CEA and CA 19-9 in the blood, which are substances released into the bloodstream from cancer cells and healthy cells. When found at high levels, it can be a sign of gallbladder cancer or a non-cancerous condition. 
  • Imaging Tests 

    • Ultrasound: This diagnostic imaging technique relies on sound waves that are high-frequency, along with a computer to produce pictures of tissues, blood vessels, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to see and assess internal organs as they function, and also to evaluate blood flow through various vessels.      

    • Computed Tomography (CT) scan: CT or "CAT" scans rely on a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images of pelvic organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays. 

    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: This type of scan uses large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to produce in-depth images of structures and organs in the body.     

    • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein before a scan to highlight any cancerous cells. The cancer cells “light up” because they use more glucose for energy.

    • Cholangiopancreatography: Performed as an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (X-raying with a flexible lighted tube inserted down the windpipe and into the bile ducts) or as a percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (x-raying by inserting a thin needle below the ribs into the liver via the skin) to determine blockages, treat, or take samples.   

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.