Skip to main content
Explore URMC
URMC / Encyclopedia / Content

Gallbladder Cancer

What is Cancer of the Gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that lies just under the liver in the upper abdomen. The liver produces bile, a product that aids in digestion, and it is stored in the gallbladder. Cancer of the gallbladder is very uncommon, and occurs as the result of abnormal cell growth within the gallbladder.

Risk Factors of Gallbladder Cancer

There are few known risk factors for gallbladder cancer. Current research suggests the following:

  • Being a woman.Occurs more frequently in women than in men.
  • Gallstones.People who have or have had gallstones seems to be at a higher risk for developing this disease.

Common Symptoms of Gallbladder Cancer

Often, cancer of the gallbladder is not diagnosed until the gallbladder is removed for other reasons. It is also hard to diagnose because of the gallbladder’s location within the body and because many of the symptoms are like that of other diseases of the gallbladder, such as gallstones or infection. Following are the most common symptoms:

  • Pain above the stomach
  • Unexplained loss of weight
  • Fever
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

These symptoms may be caused by cancer or by other, less serious conditions. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor.

Diagnosing Gallbladder Cancer

If there are symptoms, your doctor will review your medical history, perform a physical exam and will probably order x-rays and other tests to find the cause of the symptoms. Typically, though, cancer cannot be detected except through a biopsy of the gallbladder, where the surgeon will make a cut in the abdomen to examine the gallbladder and other nearby organs and tissues.