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In patients with early gallbladder cancer, surgery can potentially be curative.

In those with advanced gallbladder cancer, surgery may be carried out for palliative intent. Staging laparoscopy may be performed.

Your doctor will discuss with you why this operation is necessary. Depending on the stage of the cancer, surgery for gallbladder cancer can be performed with the aim of either prolonging the survival or palliating symptoms caused by the cancer.

In very early cancer of the gallbladder, where the cancer is confined only to the inner lining (mucosa) of the gallbladder, cholecystectomy (an operation to remove the gallbladder) is adequate. Unless the cancer has invaded deep into the gallbladder wall, further operation is not required.

Radical cholecystectomy is a more extensive operation for gallbladder cancer. This operation involves removal of the gallbladder, part of the liver adjacent to the gallbladder and surrounding lymph nodes in the region. Occasionally, the common bile duct and part of the duodenum may be removed. This is a complex operation and is usually performed by an experienced Hepatobiliary surgeon.

Palliative surgery may be done to divert the passage of bile when the bile duct is obstructed in advanced cancer. Here, a loop of small bowel is joined to the bile duct to drain the bile. The aim is to relieve the jaundice and prevent bile infection.

The complications and risks of gallbladder surgery largely depend on the extent of operation and the patient’s general health status. Other than the risks of infection and bleeding, the other complications include leakage of bile at the site where small bowel is re-routed and connected to the bile duct. Your doctor will assess your general health fitness and discuss with you the possible risks and complications in more detail before the surgery.

 

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