Jaundice and Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder cancer in advanced stages can be treated with surgery

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Gallbladder cancer is a tough one to diagnose early, and scientists are trying to determine the best way to treat more advanced cases.

Your gallbladder is part of the biliary tract, which helps with digestion. This is where bile is made. 

Gallbladder cancer grows and spreads quickly. Many patients with this cancer also have jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes. Jaundice is caused by having too much of a substance called bilirubin.

Surgery is an option for people with advanced gallbladder cancer who have jaundice. It may even help to extend their lives.

"Notice a yellow tinge in your skin or eyes? See your doctor."

When a patient has jaundice and gallbladder cancer (GBC), that's generally not a good sign. It means that the cancer is more advanced.

The question is what's the best way to treat these patients. 

Chinese researchers from Eastern Hepatobiliary Surgical Hospital at Second Military Medical University in Shanghai did a study to answer this question.

They worked with 251 people who were treated for GBC at a Shanghai hospital between December, 2002 and January, 2010. The individuals were divided into two groups - those who had jaundice, (117), and those without the condition (134).

Researchers examined medical records and analyzed follow-up data on these patients.

The individuals without jaundice lived longer than those who had it - a median (middle) of 15 months compared to 6 months. Even those with advanced stages of the disease lived longer if they didn't have jaundice.

Fewer people with no jaundice had their entire gallbladder and lymph nodes removed in what's called a radical resection than did those with the condition.

Of those who had surgery, people without jaundice lived longer than their colleagues who did - 18 months compared with 12.

The authors wrote, "GBC with jaundice usually implies advanced stage disease and a poor prognosis for the patients. However, our findings indicate that as long as the patient's condition allows, radical resection is still feasible for GBC patients with jaundice, and may achieve a prognosis close to those GBC patients without jaundice."

Gallbladder and other cancers of the biliary system are diagnosed in nearly 10,000 Americans each year. The disease is more common in Asia.

This study was published in the March issue of the Chinese Medical Journal. No financial information was available. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 16, 2012
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013