Cancers of the gallbladder are rare and most commonly develop from the lining of the gallbladder. Approximately 100 gallbladder cancers are diagnosed annually in Aotearoa New Zealand. They are most likely to affect patients over the age of 70 years, female patients and patients with untreated symptomatic gallstones. Rarely other tumours (melanoma, ovarian cancer and renal cancer) can also spread to the gallbladder.


Gallbladder cancer can occur in association with gallstones and a proportion are only diagnosed following pathological examination of gallbladders removed for gallstone disease.

Most commonly gallbladder cancers cause pain and are diagnosed with ultrasound or CT scan.


Patients with tumours limited to the gallbladder can generally be treated with removal of the adjacent liver and the lymph glands that drain the gallbladder area. Habour Surgery Centre offers this procedure laparoscopically and via robotic surgery as well as via a traditional open approach using a skin incision. Removal of the tumour is generally followed by a course of chemotherapy to optimize the chance of cure.

Patients with gallbladder cancers that are advanced or have spread beyond the gallbladder are treated primarily with chemotherapy – sometime with the aim of decreasing the size of the tumour to make it treatable with surgery.

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