Treatment for gall bladder cancer is provided at Barnes-Jewish Hospital by Washington University physicians, surgeons oncologists and radiation oncologists with extensive expertise in evaluation and treatment of this disease.
Patients receive prompt access to comprehensive services with close collaboration among physicians, referring physicians, and cancer specialists. Patients and their families can be assured of access to the latest appropriate treatment therapies available.
FOR AN APPOINTMENT, CALL 1 (800) 600-3606
SPECIALISTS WHO TREAT :
Steven Strasberg, MD, hepatobiliary surgeon
David Linehan, MD, hepatobiliary surgeon
Joel Picus, MD, medical oncologist
Robert Myerson, MD, PhD, radiation oncologist
Wade Thorstad, MD, radiation oncologist
What is gall bladder cancer ?
Gallbladder cancer is an uncommon cancer in which cancerous (malignant) cells are found in the gallbladder tissue.
The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that lies under the liver in the upper abdomen. The gallbladder stores bile, a fluid made by the liver, that aids in digesting fat. During digestion, bile is released from the gallbladder through the tube called the bile duct which connects the gallbladder and liver to the small intestine.
Since gallbladder cancer almost always occurs in people who have gallstones, this type of cancer is often found incidentally in a patient who is having gallbladder removal to treat gallstones. If cancer is found upon removing the gallbladder, it is usually in a very early stage providing a more favorable outcome.
Other times, a person may be diagnosed with gallbladder cancer after experiencing more typical cancer symptoms like a mass with weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, bowel obstruction, weakness or fatigue, or other signs and symptoms related to cancer.
How is gall bladder cancer diagnosed ?
To diagnose gallbladder cancer, a doctor completes a thorough medical exam that includes a review of the medical history, family's health history and a physical exam. The physical exam might include: a computed tomography (CT) scan, an X-ray which uses a computer to provide an image of the inside of the abdomen; a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which uses magnetic waves to create the image; or an ultrasound, which uses high-frequency sound waves to echo off the body and create a picture. Sometimes a biopsy is performed in which a tiny sample of the gallbladder tissue is examined under a microscope.
How is gall bladder cancer treated ?
Surgery is most commonly used to treat gallbladder cancer. Washington University cancer specialists have expertise in the very complex surgery required to treat gallbladder cancer because of their extensive training and the volume of these types of surgery they perform. Their skill lies in the ability to perform this complicated surgery with low complication rates and high survival rates.
To treat gallbladder cancer, the gallbladder is removed as well as part the part of the liver immediately under the gallbladder, the bile duct and the bile duct lymph nodes near the gallbladder.
The lymph nodes around the bile duct are removed because gallbladder cancer tends to travel to those lymph nodes. Surgeons are not able to determine if the lymph nodes are cancerous until they remove them, which gives the patient a better chance of cure.
What are cure rates for gall bladder cancer?
If the lymph nodes are negative for cancer and the tumor is confined to the gallbladder, the cure rate is more than 80 percent. If the cancer is not confined to the gallbladder and the lymph nodes are negative, the cure rate is up to 60 percent. If the lymph nodes are positive, the cure rate is up to 20 percent.
What about radiation therapy and chemotherapy. How do they help ?
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used in conjunction with surgery for added benefit. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells and may be administered orally, by injecting it into a vein (intravenously) or by injecting it into an artery (intra-arterially). Radiation therapy, the use of high-powered X-rays that kill cancer cells and shrink tumors, may be used either before or after surgery. Typically given daily over a period of weeks, radiation therapy is not painful, although side effects such as stomach irritation may occur.
One type of radiation therapy that may be used is called three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3-DCRT). This technology enhances the delivery of high doses of radiation to the cancer. Washington University physicians were among the first in the nation to use 3-DCRT to treat hepatobiliary cancer.
We treat many patients from outside the region and outside United States. For North American referrals, physicians may call the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Doctors Access Line at (800) 252-DOCS (3627).
Patients in the continental United States may refer to Family and Guest Services for assistance with lodging.
Physicians and patients from countries outside of the United States may view a complete list of our Centers of Excellence available for International Healthcare Referrals or physicians may contact us by email, with a short summary of the patient's diagnosis and your initial treatment plan. We will forward this summary to the right department for review and follow-up. Although English is preferred, you may email in your own language.