Early Warning Signs of Gallbladder Cancer

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The gallbladder is a small organ located just beneath the liver. The gallbladder’s function is to store bile produced by the liver and serves to help digest fats. Gallbladder cancer is extremely rare, affecting approximately 12,000 individuals in the United States annually. Females and those of Native American descent are more commonly affected, though gallbladder cancer can occur in anyone.

Many cases of gallbladder cancer are found late due to the lack of noticeable symptoms in the early stages of cancer development. Sometimes, a doctor may diagnose gallbladder cancer during surgery on another abdominal organ or during the removal of the gallbladder for a separate medical condition. 

Gallstones do not make an individual more likely to develop gallbladder cancer. However, there are several symptoms of later-stage gallbladder cancer to be aware of. If you have any of these symptoms for a prolonged period of time, talk to your doctor. Continue reading to learn more about the notable signs of gallbladder cancer. 

Abdominal Symptoms

Abdominal symptoms are common in gallbladder cancer, as the organ tends to enlarge as cancer progresses. These symptoms may mimic other less serious conditions, leading to delayed diagnosis. Common abdominal signs of gallbladder cancer include:

  • upper right quadrant abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • black, tarry stools

Appetite and Weight Loss

While appetite loss and weight loss can occur for a variety of reasons, individuals with early-stage gallbladder cancer often lose weight rapidly without explanation. During this time, appetite loss and nausea are also common.


Individuals with gallbladder cancer may also experience symptoms of yellowing skin and eyes, also referred to as jaundice, due to growing tumors that block the bile ducts. The buildup of bile can also cause severe skin itching all over the body. Jaundice is one of the more common symptoms, with almost half of all diagnosed presenting with symptoms at the time of diagnosis.

Testing for Gallbladder Cancer

Presently, no early screening or blood tests can accurately diagnose gallbladder cancer in its early stages. However, when the first noticeable symptoms develop, seeking immediate medical attention can ensure prompt detection and treatment.

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