Gallbladder Cancer and Bile Duct Cancer Treatment

Gallbladder Cancer and Bile Duct Cancer Treatment

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Duke specialists in gallbladder cancer and bile duct cancer use the latest medical and surgical advances to find and treat cancer at the earliest possible stage. We have the advanced training and expertise to perform complex surgeries, including liver and pancreatic surgeries, for tumors that have spread to other organs. We help you stay healthy and active while using a range of options to treat your gallbladder cancer or bile duct cancer.

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The Best Care for Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer

Gallbladder cancer and bile duct cancer, also known as biliary cancer, can occur in any of the small tubes that carry bile, a substance that aids in digestion. These rare forms of cancer require a level of expertise and skill found only at major medical centers like Duke.

Our doctors and surgeons undergo advanced training in gastrointestinal cancer and specialize in treating cancers found in the gallbladder and/or bile duct. Our team includes surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, gastroenterologists, and pathologists. This comprehensive approach ensures you receive an accurate diagnosis and the most effective treatment options for your condition.

Our Locations
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.


Early Stage Cancer Surgery

Removes cancer found in the gallbladder and bile duct before it spreads. Surgery may also be necessary to clear blocked bile ducts and treat conditions like jaundice, a common symptom of bile duct cancer that occurs when the bile duct is blocked and excess bile builds up.


Removes your gallbladder. Your surgeon may perform this procedure using small incisions and a tube called a laparoscope that has a tiny camera at its end. This lets your surgeon clearly see your organs during the operation. In addition to the gallbladder, nearby liver tissue and lymph nodes may be removed if the tumor has advanced or spread.

Endoscopic Stent Placement

A small plastic or metal mesh tube called a stent may be placed to open blocked bile ducts and relieve jaundice.

Whipple Surgery

Also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy, this complex procedure may be necessary if your cancer is in the lower part of the bile duct. It removes the affected organs, which may include the gallbladder, lower part of the bile duct, the head of the pancreas, and the first small part of the intestine, known as the duodenum. This procedure may be performed robotically, which involves smaller incisions that result in less blood loss and scarring. A robotic Whipple procedure may also shorten your recovery time and allow you to begin chemotherapy and radiation, if necessary, sooner.

Liver Surgery

If your cancer is in the upper part of the bile duct or you have been diagnosed with advanced gallbladder cancer, part of your liver may need to be removed. In some cases, a liver transplant may be appropriate.


Kills or slows the growth of the tumor and may be recommended if your cancer has spread.

Palliative Surgeries

Help to relieve gallbladder and bile duct cancer pain and jaundice.

Radiation Therapy

External beams deliver the maximum amount of radiation directly to your bile duct to slow or stop cancer growth. It is also used to help relieve pain and other symptoms of the cancer.

Radiofrequency Ablation

High-energy beams may be used to treat pain caused by tumors that can’t be removed surgically and that are blocking the bile duct. This procedure can also help to relieve pain and other symptoms of cancer.


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Blood Tests

Detect gallbladder and bile duct cancer and measure how well your gallbladder and bile duct are functioning.


A tissue sample may be removed and examined to determine if cancer is present.

Advanced Imaging Tests

CT, MRI, positron emission tomography (PET), and X-ray scans identify the stage, type, and location of gallbladder cancer and bile duct cancer. The scans help your doctors recommend the most appropriate treatments for you.

Exploratory Surgery

If gallbladder cancer or bile duct cancer is suspected, exploratory surgery may be performed in place of a biopsy to ensure you are treated as quickly as possible.

Duke University Hospital is nationally ranked in 10 adult specialties
Among the Best Cancer Hospitals in U.S.
Where you receive your cancer care is important. Duke University Hospital's cancer program is ranked among the nation's best by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.

Why Choose Duke

Nationally Ranked Program
We are a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and are part of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers dedicated to improving care for our patients.

North Carolina's Leader in Bile Duct, Liver, and Pancreatic Surgery
Cancers of the bile duct and gallbladder often require surgery of the liver and sometimes surgery of the head of the pancreas (Whipple procedure), depending on the stage and location of your cancer. These are complex surgical procedures that require a high level of experience and expertise. We perform these procedures more often than any other North Carolina hospital. Studies show that patients who undergo complex surgical procedures in major cancer centers like ours experience fewer surgical complications, shorter hospital stays, and a faster recovery.

An Experienced Team
While gallbladder cancer and bile duct cancer are rare, our specialists have the training and experience to treat these cancers effectively. We see many people with these types of cancer each year. Our team includes specialists from medical and surgical oncology, gastroenterology, and interventional radiology, which allows us to offer you a full range of treatment options.

Relief From Jaundice
We use a range of specialized techniques to open blocked bile ducts and help relieve jaundice, including stent placement and surgery.

Support for You
Our comprehensive support services range from helping patients minimize the side effects of treatment to coping with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment. View our cancer support groups in our event calendar.