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What you thought might be gallstones ended up being cancer cells. Now what?

You’ve had bellyaches before, but not like these. You’ve heard that gallstones can cause this kind of pain, so you make an appointment and go see your provider. But the tests they do don’t show just stones, they show cancer. Now the belly pain you feel is more like a punch in the gut.

Gallbladder cancer doesn’t happen very often, but when it happens to you, it’s your whole world. And you want healthcare providers who live in that world, too, day in and day out.

At Cleveland Clinic, you’ll work with healthcare providers who have experience helping people with gallbladder cancer. From the start, your providers will focus on understanding your unique situation. And they’ll help you find the right treatment options for you.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Gallbladder Cancer Care?

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Comprehensive care:

We’re here to help you with many of cancer’s challenges. We’ll work with you to create a care plan focused on you — from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up care. And when you need experts from other specialties, we’ll make sure you’re getting the treatment and support you need when you need it. Meet our team.

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Caring approach:

We know it can be overwhelming to learn you have a serious illness like gallbladder cancer. We’ll take time to explain what’s happening and what you can expect. We’re committed to keeping you at the center of your care. That means we’ll help you understand each test and treatment, supporting you through every step.

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Demonstrated expertise:

Gallbladder cancer is rare, which means not all healthcare providers have experience diagnosing and treating it. At Cleveland Clinic, your healthcare team will include surgeons and radiation oncologists who specialize in liver and gallbladder surgery, so you have the best chance for excellent results.

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Innovation and research:

Our continuous research gives our specialists the most up-to-date insight into rare cancer treatments. You may also be able to take part in new clinical trials that let you try new medications and therapies before they’re widely available.

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Virtual visits:

Not able to see us in person? Our virtual visits can be a convenient alternative for some appointments. You’ll get the same great care without having to leave your home. All you need to get started is an internet connection and a smartphone, computer or tablet.

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National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic is a trusted healthcare leader. We’re recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for our expertise and care.

Diagnosis Gallbladder Cancer at Cleveland Clinic

Your gallbladder is a tiny organ in the top part of your belly’s right side, just below your liver. Your liver makes bile that’s stored in your gallbladder. Bile is a fluid that helps your body digest fat.

Normally, bile flows from your liver through your gallbladder and on to your small intestine. When something blocks that flow, you may have nausea, pain in the upper right part of your abdomen (belly) or feel bloated. You may lose weight without trying. Some people develop jaundice (yellowing of your skin and eyes). Often, people learn they have gallbladder cancer after seeing their provider when their upper belly pain gets really bad.

What to expect at your first visit

Your first visit with us starts with a conversation. We want to get to know you and for you to feel comfortable asking questions. We’ll talk about:

  • Your symptoms.
  • When you first noticed symptoms.
  • If your symptoms come and go or are constant.
  • If your symptoms affect your daily life.

We’ll also go over your medical history and give you a physical exam so we can check your overall health. Your provider may order blood tests and imaging tests, too.

Blood tests

We may do these blood tests to see if we find cancer:

Imaging tests

We may do imaging tests like these to look at your gallbladder from the inside:

Other tests

We may also want to do a biopsy. Your provider will take a sample of tumor tissue and send it to our lab, where pathologists will look at it under a microscope. Your provider may do a laparoscopy, as well, to see if the cancer has spread.

If you have advanced-stage gallbladder cancer, your provider may also do genomic (DNA) testing on the biopsy tissue and a liquid biopsy of your blood. These tests look for cancer cells so we can target them in therapy.

Second Opinions for Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder cancer doesn’t happen very often. If you have it, you’ll want to be sure you’re working with an experienced healthcare team with specialized expertise in gallbladder cancer treatment.

That’s why Cleveland Clinic cancer experts encourage second opinions. We understand you may be anxious and ready for next steps, so we’ll schedule your appointment with us as soon as possible. Getting a second opinion from our experts in gallbladder cancer treatment can give you reassurance that you have the best care team on your side, and that they’re offering the most effective treatment for you.

Meet Our Gallbladder Cancer Team

We believe in teamwork at Cleveland Clinic. That means you’ll work with providers from different specialties and with specific experience treating gallbladder cancer. Your team of specialists will combine their knowledge and experience to develop your personalized care plan. Your team may include:


Our healthcare providers see patients at convenient locations throughout Northeast Ohio and Florida.

Treating Gallbladder Cancer at Cleveland Clinic

Your providers will tailor your treatment to your specific situation and your personal preferences. They’ll explain treatment goals and how each treatment option would help meet those goals.


If you have early-stage gallbladder cancer, your provider may recommend cholecystectomy, which is surgery to remove your gallbladder. Depending on your situation, your provider may also recommend removing nearby tissue and lymph nodes.

Radiation therapy

If you have gallbladder surgery, your provider may use radiation therapy after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Radiation therapy may also ease gallbladder cancer symptoms.


Your provider may recommend combining chemotherapy and radiation after surgery to kill remaining cancer cells. If gallbladder cancer is found at an advanced stage where surgery and radiation aren’t possible, chemotherapy can be used by itself to improve your symptoms and extend your life for as long as possible.

Other therapies

Other therapies that your provider may recommend if the cancer is advanced, and surgery and radiation aren’t possible, include:

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is often added to chemotherapy to help your body’s natural immune system fight the cancer and make the chemo more effective.
  • Targeted therapy. This therapy pinpoints (targets) the cancer cells that carry certain gene (DNA) mutations (changes). It lets us treat the cancer cells without hurting the healthy cells.

Follow-Up Care

Gallbladder cancer treatment may eliminate cancer, but you may need ongoing treatment. Either way, you’ll have follow-up appointments with your providers. They’ll keep a close eye on your overall health and watch closely for any new symptoms. At your follow-up appointment, you might have:

  • Physical examination.
  • CT scan.
  • Blood tests to see how your liver is working and if there are any signs of cancer in your blood.

Taking the Next Step

If you have gallbladder cancer, you’ll want to work with a team of specialists that combines compassionate care with experience treating this rare condition. At Cleveland Clinic, we’ll take time to learn about your experience, answer your questions and create a personalized treatment plan that reflects what you want and need. Whether we’re treating your cancer to eliminate it or are helping to manage the condition every day, our specialists are there for you throughout it all.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s gallbladder cancer experts is easy. We’ll help you get the care you need.


Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s gallbladder cancer experts is easy. We’ll help you get the care you need.

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Learning you have cancer can be stressful, shocking and challenging. From the moment you get the news, you're a survivor. As you face the challenges that go along with cancer treatment and recovery — physical and emotional — we’ll be right there with you.

At Cleveland Clinic, survivorship care is one part of your journey. We offer a wide range of services, resources, clinics and support groups to help with any physical, emotional, financial and spiritual needs you might have related to your cancer diagnosis. Lending a helping hand along the way, we want you to not only survive, but thrive on this journey and beyond.

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