The three types of standard treatments used for gallbladder cancer are surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Treatment clinical trials are being tested to investigate new gallbladder cancer treatments, or to explore how to make standard treatments better.
Surgery to remove the gallbladder and tissues surrounding it is called a cholecystectomy. During this surgery, some lymph nodes may be removed as well. In cases where the tumor cannot be removed because the cancer has spread, palliative surgery is sometimes done in order to lessen symptoms. One such surgery is a surgical biliary bypass, which relieves blockage to the small intestine. In the case of a blocked bile duct, an endoscopic stent placement can be done. The stent allows bile to drain either into the small intestine or outside of the body. In percutaneous transhepatic biliary drainage surgery, a stent is placed into the liver to allow for bile drainage.
Two types of radiation therapy are available to treat gallbladder cancer: external radiation therapy, which uses a device to send radiation to the cancer from outside the body, and internal radiation therapy, where a radioactive substance is placed near or inside the cancer.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to halt cancerous cell growth by stopping cell division or killing the cells. Chemotherapy is delivered either orally, by injection, or by placing the drugs directly into the body cavity, organ or cerebrospinal fluid.
Clinical trials therapies for gallbladder cancer include hyperthermia therapy, which involves exposing tissues to high temperatures in order to kill cancer cells or make them more sensitive to radiation therapy and anticancer drugs, and radiosensitizers, which are drugs that make the cancer more sensitive to radiation therapy.