Gallbladder Cancer


Gallbladder cancers include cancers that develop in tissues of the gallbladder and the bile ducts in the liver (biliary system).

Gallbladder cancer occurs when malignant cells form in the tissues of the gallbladder. It begins in the innermost layer of tissue and spreads through the outer layers as it grows. The gallbladder is located the right side of your abdomen, just beneath your liver. It stores bile, a digestive fluid produced by your liver.

Bile duct cancer is a cancer that occurs in a bile duct. Bile duct cancer may be found inside the liver (intrahepatic) or outside the liver.

General Information

Gallbladder cancer, though uncommon, is most prevalent in Central America, South America, central and eastern Europe, Japan, and northern India. It develops more often in certain ethnic groups, including Native Americans and Hispanics.

When gallbladder cancer is discovered in its earliest stages, the chance for a cure is good. Early diagnosis is generally not possible, however. Gallbladder cancer is difficult to detect and diagnose early because there aren’t any noticeable signs or symptoms in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms do manifest, they mimic the symptoms of other illnesses. Patients may experience abdominal pain, abdominal bloating, itchiness, loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, nausea, and jaundice of the skin and eyes.

The most common and effective treatment is surgical removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) with part of liver and lymph node dissection. However, with gallbladder cancer’s extremely poor prognosis, most patients will die within a year of surgery. If surgery is not possible, endoscopic stenting of the biliary tree can reduce jaundice and a stent in the stomach may relieve vomiting. Gallbladder cancer is sometimes found when the gallbladder is removed for other reasons.

Chemotherapy and radiation often are used in combination with surgery. If cancer of the gallbladder is diagnosed after a cholecystectomy for stone disease, re-operation to remove part of liver and lymph nodes is required in most cases. When this is done early, patients have a better chance of long-term survival and even cure.

The outlook is poor for recovery if gallbladder cancer is found after symptoms have started to occur, with a five-year survival rate close to 3%. The cancer commonly spreads to the liver, bile duct, stomach, and duodenum.

Social Security Administration POMS DI 23022.080 — Gallbladder Cancer

To establish disability under the Social Security Administration (SSA) with a diagnosis of gallbladder cancer, you will need medical evidence specifying the type, extent, and site of the primary, recurrent or metastatic lesion. Copies of the operative note and pathology report will be required, if applicable. A summary of the hospitalization also should be included.

Gallbladder cancer is evaluated under Social Security Medical Listing 13.19. It also is listed under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance Program, which was launched in 2008 to expedite certain disability claims.

Applying for disability benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Program requires the same procedure every applicant must follow when applying for SSA disability benefits; however, you will be notified if your condition is being considered as a compassionate allowance.

Your representative may be able to help expedite your disability claim if you have a diagnosis of gallbladder cancer.