About Gallbladder Cancer

About Gallbladder Cancer

At Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, patients with gallbladder cancer receive their care from a multidisciplinary team of nationally recognized experts in the diagnosis, treatment and research of gastrointestinal cancer.

Gallbladder cancer is cancer that forms in the tissue of the gallbladder, a pear-shaped organ located near the liver in the upper abdomen that collects and stores bile.

Primary cancer of the gallbladder is very rare. Most gallbladder cancers are adenocarcinomas, meaning they are located in the surface area tissue of the organ. They can be further classified, depending on how the cancer appears under a microscope, as follows:

  • Papillary
  • Nodular
  • Tubular

Because navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right physician.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Gallbladder Cancer Risk and Prevention

Gallbladder Cancer Risk and Prevention

Some risk factors for cancer, like age and family history, cannot be prevented. Patients who feel they are at risk may benefit from consulting with a risk assessment specialist within one of Penn Medicine's programs at the Abramson Cancer Center or the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital.

Gallbladder Cancer Risk Factors

Risk factors increase the chance of developing gallbladder cancer. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that someone will develop cancer.

There are different kinds of risk factors. Some factors cannot be changed, while steps can be taken to reduce others.

  • Smoking. Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of developing gallbladder cancer.
  • Sex. Gallbladder cancer affects more women than men.
  • Age. The risk of getting gallbladder cancer increases as people age. Most patients diagnosed are between 62 and 66 years old.
  • A history of gallstones. Although gallstones are associated with finding gallbladder cancer, less than 1 percent of patients with gallstones develop cancer.
  • Obesity. Those who are obese or overweight may be at an increased risk for gallbladder cancer.
  • Race. Native Americans have a higher risk of developing gallbladder cancer.
  • Other diseases or conditions. Porcelain gallbladder, choledochal cysts, abnormalities of the bile ducts or gallbladder polyps may increase a person's risk for developing gallbladder cancer.

Gallbladder Cancer Prevention

There are no proven methods for preventing gallbladder cancer. However there are some ways people can help prevent cancer and maintain a healthy lifestyle:

Gallbladder Cancer Risk Assessment

Penn Medicine offers programs for patients who want to determine their risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer through:

  • The Penn High Risk GI Cancer Genetics Program

These programs offer knowledge about the presence of genetic risk factors for cancer and provide patients with important, sometimes life-saving options.

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Types of Gallbladder Cancer

Types of Gallbladder Cancer

  • Adenocarcinomas
    • Papillary adenocarcinoma
    • Nodular adenocarcinoma
    • Tubular adenocarcinoma
  • Other types of gallbladder cancer

Adenocarcinoma

Most gallbladder cancers are adenocarcinomas. An adenocarcinoma is a cancer that starts in the cells that have gland-like properties, and lives within the tissues that line the inside of the digestive system.

Papillary Adenocarcinoma

Papillary adenocarcinoma is a type of gallbladder cancer that accounts for approximately 6 percent of all gallbladder cancers. Papillary adenocarcinomas appear to have finger-like projections when viewed under a microscope.

Nodular Adenocarcinoma

Nodular adenocarcinoma is a type of gallbladder cancer that looks like nodes, or nodular projections when viewed under a microscope.

Tubular Adenocarcinoma

Tubular adenocarcinoma is a type of gallbladder cancer that looks like tiny tubes, or polyps when viewed under a microscope.

Other Types of Gallbladder Cancer

Other types of gallbladder cancer may develop in the gallbladder, but are very rare. These include adenosquamous carcinomas, signet ring cell, squamous cell carcinomas, small cell carcinomas and sarcomas.

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Gallbladder Cancer Symptoms

Gallbladder Cancer Symptoms

Gallbladder cancer is difficult to detect and diagnose. Gallbladder cancer is usually not discovered until it becomes more advanced and causes symptoms, or if it is found during a procedure for another condition. Symptoms of gallbladder cancer include:

  • Abdominal pain, especially on the right side under the ribcage
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Fever
  • Jaundice, or a yellowish hue to the skin and whites of eyes
  • Gallbladder enlargement
  • Loss of appetite
  • Losing weight without dieting
  • Severe itching
  • Black, tarry stools

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Staging Gallbladder Cancer

Staging Gallbladder Cancer

Staging systems provide doctors with a common language for describing tumors. After cancer is first diagnosed, a series of tests are used to investigate the extent of the cancer and to see whether it has spread to other parts of the body from where it started. Staging is a way of recording the size and growth of a cancer, and determining the plan for treatment. By understanding the stage of their cancer, patients can make informed decisions about their treatment.

Physicians use the “TNM” system to stage gallbladder cancer. Staging gallbladder cancer attempts to discover the following:

  • The size of the tumor
  • Whether the cancer has spread to nearby tissues
  • Whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body

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Gallbladder Cancer Treatment at Penn

Gallbladder Cancer Treatment at Penn

After being diagnosed with gallbladder cancer, patients at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center may be evaluated through the Gastrointestinal Cancer Evaluation Center (GICEC). The center provides patients with expert support and evaluation to discuss treatment options and individualized treatment plans.

ADAM Image

Patients with pancreatic cancer are treated by a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists who see more patients with gastrointestinal (GI) cancers in one year than many doctors see in their careers.

The physicians of Penn Medicine’s GI cancer program are nationally recognized for their expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Penn’s GI cancer treatment team includes:

  • Nationally recognized medical experts with years of experience in diagnosing and treating GI cancer.
  • Nurses with advanced training and experience in gastrointestinal cancer.
  • Patient navigation specialists to help patients navigate the health system.
  • Registered dietitians to provide nutrition counseling.
  • Cancer counselors to provide individual or family counseling for issues many cancer patients face.
  • Rehabilitation therapists who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of physical effects from cancer and its treatment.

Patients at Penn Medicine can benefit from participating in clinical trials that take place at Penn. Patients interested in learning more about clinical trials should speak with someone on their treatment team.

Oncology Navigation Specialists

Every step of cancer treatment – from cancer diagnosis, to surgery and treatment to forming a survivorship plan – comes with different needs and issues that should be addressed.

Oncology Navigation Specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center are available to make the patient experience as seamless as possible. As experts in navigating complex health care situations, Patient Navigation specialists serve as a consistent point of contact and a reliable source for advice, support and direction for patients and families. They can help in a variety of ways including; provide emotional support, identify resources, and ensure access to information, support services, educational programs and community resources.

Learn more about Patient Navigation specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center.

Penn Pancreatic and Biliary Center

Patients at Penn Medicine with gallbladder cancer also benefit from the Penn Pancreatic and Biliary Center, one of the busiest pancreatic and biliary surgery programs in the United States.

Studies have shown successful treatment of gallbladder cancer requires accurate diagnosis and cancer surgeons who are experienced in complex surgeries. The center combines that expertise with leading-edge research and technology, giving patients at Penn Medicine a better chance for positive outcomes.

Learn more about the Penn Pancreatic and Biliary Center.

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Diagnosing Gallbladder Cancer

An accurate cancer diagnosis from trusted cancer specialists is the first step in getting personalized treatment options to treat gallbladder cancer.

Patients who choose Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, benefit from a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists including gastroenterologists, radiologists, pathologists and surgeons who work together to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan custom designed for each patient with gallbladder cancer.

Cancer specialists at Penn Medicine are highly experienced in using the most advanced techniques for diagnosing gallbladder cancer and are actively researching better and more precise ways to detect gallbladder cancer.

Navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right person. Penn Medicine’s contact center has experienced cancer nurses available and ready to guide patients in finding the cancer specialist right for them.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Screening for Gallbladder Cancer

Screening for Gallbladder Cancer

Currently, there are no general screening tests recommended for gallbladder cancer such as mammograms for breast cancer or colonoscopies for colon cancer. For patients at high risk, the cancer risk evaluation programs at Penn Medicine can help determine if screening tests are needed.

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Diagnostic Tools for Gallbladder Cancer

Diagnostic Tools for Gallbladder Cancer

When physicians suspect gallbladder cancer, they may order several tests to make a diagnosis.

  • Medical history and physical exam.
  • Lab tests. Lab tests can help a physician diagnose cancer, determine current organ function, learn how other organs may be affected, and look for signs of cancer. Lab tests ordered by a physician may include gallbladder and liver function panels to look for abnormal levels of substances in the blood that may indicate disease. Lab tests may also include measures for CEA and CA 19-9 that are tumor markers.
  • Imaging tests. Pictures of the inside of the body can help find out whether a suspicious area might be cancerous, to learn how far cancer may have spread, and to help determine if treatment is working.
    • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). ERCP combines endoscopy and fluoroscopy to diagnose gallbladder cancer.
    • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS).  This procedure combines endoscopy and ultrasound to provide images of the gallbladder and surrounding structures, and may also be used for tissue acquisition.
    • Computed tomography (CT). A CT scan creates a 3-D X-ray of the inside of the body. A computer combines the images into a detailed, cross-sectional view that shows any abnormalities or tumors. Sometimes, a contrast medium (dye) is used to provide better detail.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Magnetic fields are used to create detailed images of the body. A contrast medium may be injected into a vein to create a clearer picture.
    • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP). MRCP is a non-invasive imaging test that uses magnetic resonance imaging to view biliary and pancreatic ducts.
    • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC). A thin needle is inserted via the liver into the bile ducts and dye is injected before an X-ray is taken. A stent may be left to drain bile if a blockage is found.
    • Angiography. A catheter is threaded along the blood vessels leading to the liver. Contrast is injected into the blood vessels and X-rays are taken that can show tumors.
  • Biopsy. A sample of the suspicious area is removed and viewed under a microscope when other tests find a change that is possibly cancer. A biopsy is the only way to tell if cancer is really present.
    • Needle biopsy. A thin needle is used to remove a small sample of the gallbladder or surrounding tissue.
    • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy. Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) is the least invasive method of biopsy and it usually leaves no scar. An injection of local anesthesia numbs the area before the surgeon or radiologist uses a thin needle with a hollow center to remove a sample of cells from the suspicious area. Imaging studies such as ultrasound are used to guide the needle to the right location.

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Staging Gallbladder Cancer

Staging Gallbladder Cancer

Staging is a way of describing a cancer, such as where it is located, if or where it has spread, and if it is affecting the functions of other organs in the body. Doctors use diagnostic tests to determine the cancer's stage, so staging may not be complete until all the tests are finished. Knowing the stage helps the doctor to decide what kind of treatment is best and can help predict a patient's chance of recovery.

  • Stage 0. Abnormal cells are found only in the innermost layer of tissue lining the gallbladder; also called carcinoma in situ.
  • Stage IA: Cancer has spread through the innermost layer of the gallbladder and to the connective or muscle tissue.
  • Stage IB: Cancer has spread beyond the muscle to the connective tissue around the muscle.
  • Stage IIA: Cancer has spread to the tissue that covers the gallbladder, and/or to the liver and/or to one nearby organ.
  • Stage IIB: Cancer has spread and one of the following:      
    • Beyond innermost layer to connective tissue and lymph nodes
    • To the muscle layer and nearby lymph nodes
    • Beyond the muscle layer to the connective tissue around the muscle and lymph nodes
    • Through the outermost tissue and/or to the liver and/or to one nearby organ and to lymph nodes.
  • Stage III. Cancer has spread to a main blood vessel in the liver or nearby organs, and may be in nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV. Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and/or organs far away from gallbladder.

Gallbladder cancer is also classified as to how the cancer may be treated.

  • Localized: Cancer is found in the wall of the gallbladder and can be completely removed by surgery.
  • Unresectable: Cancer has spread and, except in patients whose cancer has spread only to lymph nodes, cannot be surgically removed.

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Gallbladder Cancer Treatment

Following the diagnosis and staging of gallbladder cancer, cancer specialists at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center develop a personalized treatment plan. Penn's treatment options for gallbladder cancer include:

  • Surgery
    • Cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal)
    • Partial hepectomy
    • Surgical biliary bypass
    • Percutaneous transhepatic biliary drainage
    • Endoscopic stent placement
  • Radiation therapy
    • 3-D conformal radiation therapy
    • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
    • Volumetric-modulated arc therapy
    • Proton therapy
    • Photdynamic therapy (PDT)
    • Brachytherapy
  • Chemotherapy and biologic therapies
    • Chemotherapy
    • Chemoradiotherapy
    • Liver-directed biologic therapies
  • Clinical trials
  • Other treatments

Because navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right physician.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN.

Surgery for Gallbladder Cancer

Surgery for Gallbladder Cancer

Early stage gallbladder cancers may be cured by surgery. However, most gallbladder cancers are detected at a more advanced stage. The surgical expertise and experience of Penn’s gastroenterology team combined with leading-edge research at Penn offers patients a significant advantage.

Cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal)

In a cholecystectomy, the entire gallbladder and some healthy surrounding tissue is removed. Typically, this is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed laparoscopically.

Partial Hepatectomy

A partial hepatectomy removes the part of the liver where gallbladder cancer may be found. The part removed may be a wedge of tissue, an entire lobe, or a larger portion of the liver, along with some of the healthy tissue around it. The remaining liver tissue takes over the functions of the liver.

Surgical Biliary Bypass

If a tumor is blocking the bile duct and bile is building up in the liver, a biliary bypass may be performed. In this procedure, the gallbladder or bile duct is cut and sewn directly to the small intestine to create a new pathway around the blockage. 

Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage

A procedure in which bile is drained when there is a blockage and placement of an endoscopic stent is not possible. Ultrasound images are used to guide placement of a stent that drains bile into the liver, or into a bag outside of the body. This procedure may be done to relieve jaundice before surgery.

Endoscopic Stent Placement

If the tumor is blocking the bile duct, a stent may be placed via ERCP or interventional radiology to drain bile that has built up in the liver.

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Radiation Therapy for Gallbladder Cancer

Radiation Therapy for Gallbladder Cancer

Radiation oncologists at Penn Medicine are recognized for techniques that target radiation precisely to the disease site while sparing nearby tissue.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. A radiation therapy schedule usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over an extended period of time.

If radiation therapy is a treatment option, it will be discussed with patients as part of the treatment plan.

3-D Conformal Radiation Therapy

The imaging technology used by radiation oncologists at Penn Medicine helps shape the radiation treatment beam to the shape of the tumor. Conformal radiation therapy gives doctors more control when treating tumors.

Special computers use CT imaging scans to create 3-D maps of the location of the cancer in the body. The system permits the delivery of radiation from several directions, and the beams can then be shaped, or conformed, to match the shape of the cancer. Conformal radiation therapy limits radiation exposure to nearby healthy tissue as well as the tissue in the beam's path.

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

This advanced type of radiation therapy uses a computer-controlled device, called a linear accelerator, to deliver precise doses of radiation to tumors or specific areas within the tumors. Radiation therapy, including IMRT, stops cancer cells from dividing and growing, thus slowing or stopping tumor growth.

Using 4-D computed tomography (CT) images along with computerized dose calculations, IMRT allows for the radiation dose to conform more precisely to the shape of the tumor by controlling, or modulating, the intensity of the radiation beam while tracking any movement of the tumor. The therapy allows higher radiation doses to be delivered to areas within the tumor while minimizing the dose to the surrounding area.

Volumetric-Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT)

Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) is a type of specialized intensity modulated radiation therapy, or IMRT. VMAT delivers radiation by rotating the radiation machine, through one or more arcs while radiation is continuously delivered.

VMAT allows Penn radiation oncologists to treat complex cancers while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. VMAT shortens radiation delivery time, and offers patient more comfort because it does not require patients to lie completely still for long periods of time.

Penn radiation oncologists use RapidArc™ radiotherapy technology to treat hard to reach tumors.

Proton Therapy

Penn Medicine is the only academic medical center in the country that is using proton therapy to treat recurrent gastrointestinal tumors in clinical trials. Also, radiation oncologists at Penn Medicine will soon use proton therapy to treat gastrointestinal cancers in the upper digestive tract.

Penn Medicine's Roberts Proton Therapy Center is the largest and most advanced facility in the world for this precise form of cancer radiation. Patients have access to one of the most sophisticated weapons against cancer, seamlessly integrated with the full range of oncology services available at Penn Medicine. Proton therapy is external beam radiotherapy in which protons are directed at a tumor.

The radiation dose that is given through protons is very precise, and limits the exposure of normal tissues. This allows the radiation dose delivered to the tumor to be increased beyond conventional radiation. The result is the potential for a better chance to improve outcomes with fewer harmful side effects.

Proton therapy, like all forms of radiation therapy, works by aiming the energized particles, in this case protons, onto the target tumor. The particles damage the DNA of cells, ultimately causing their death. Unlike X-rays, protons can be manipulated to release most of their energy only when they reach their target. With more energy reaching the cancerous cells, more damage is administered by each burst of radiation.

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Penn was first health care system in the Philadelphia area to begin researching the use of photodynamic therapy (PDT) to treat cancer. Also known as photoradiation therapy, phototherapy or photochemotherapy, PDT brings together light-sensitive medication with low-level beams of light to destroy cancer cells.

When the treated cancer cells are exposed to the light, the light-sensitive medication absorbs the light and produces a form of oxygen that destroys cancer cells. PDT precisely targets cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy surrounding tissue.

Brachytherapy

Radiation oncologists at Penn Medicine use both internal and external forms of radiation therapy to treat cancer. Brachytherapy is an internal therapy in which the radiation source is placed inside the body.

Brachytherapy for bile duct cancer involves placing radioactive wires inside tubes in small sealed holders in the body. The implants are left in the body for only a short time. This allows the doctor to give a high dose of radiation to a smaller area than is possible with external radiation treatment.

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Chemotherapy and Biologic Therapies for Gallbladder Cancer

Chemotherapy and Biologic Therapies for Gallbladder Cancer

Penn Medicine specializes in a team approach to treatment with interdisciplinary care and innovative approaches that use chemotherapy to target tumors prior to and after surgery.

Penn medical oncologists are experienced in providing chemotherapy for gallbladder cancer and are pioneering the use of biologic therapies for cancer.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It is delivered through the bloodstream, targeting cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy is usually delivered intravenously through a catheter, or orally by pill.

Chemoradiotherapy

Chemoradiotherapy is the practice in which chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used simultaneously.

Liver-directed Therapies

Chemoembolization of the Hepatic Artery
Injecting an anticancer drug into the hepatic artery, which supplies blood to the liver, blocks blood flow to the liver and disrupts the blood supply to the tumor. This starves the tumor of blood and other nutrients.

Monoclonal Antibody Therapy

Monocolonal antibody (mAb) therapy targets cells in order to stimulate an immune response from the body. Monoclonal antibody therapy can be used to block cancer cells, and destroy tumors.

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Clinical Trials for Gallbladder Cancer

Clinical Trials for Gallbladder Cancer

Today, more and more people are surviving cancer. Clinical trials benefit patients with access to breakthrough therapies and treatments. These new advances in cancer treatment are occurring every day at Penn Medicine, giving patients hope that even greater discoveries lie ahead. Through clinical trials:

  • Diagnosing cancer has become more precise.
  • Radiation and surgical techniques have advanced.
  • Medications are more successful.
  • Combinations of medical, surgical and radiation therapy are improving treatment effectiveness and enhancing outcomes.
  • Strategies to address the late effects of cancer and its treatment are improving quality of life.

Penn Medicine is the only academic medical center in the country that is using proton therapy to treat recurrent gastrointestinal tumors in clinical trials. Also, radiation oncologists at Penn Medicine will soon use proton therapy to treat gastrointestinal cancers in the upper digestive tract.

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Other Treatments for Gallbladder Cancer

Other Treatments for Gallbladder Cancer

In addition to standard treatments and clinical trials, patients at Penn Medicine may wish to add additional therapies and treatments such as massage therapy, acupuncture and art therapy. These therapies do not have curative intent, and are designed to complement standard treatments, not take their place.

Integrative Medicine and Wellness Programs

At Penn Medicine, integrative medicine and wellness services can supplement traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy. While conventional medicine plays a critical role in eradicating cancer, integrative medicine and wellness programs offer patients and their families ways to enhance the quality of their lives, minimize or reduce the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, and promote healing and recovery.

Cancer specialists at Penn Medicine are knowledgeable and supportive of complementary cancer treatments. The cancer team works with patients and families to integrate these supportive programs into the overall care plan, while ensuring the safety and health of patients.

The Abramson Cancer Center’s range of integrative supportive services is designed to help patients cope with the cancer experience and improve their overall sense of well-being. Services include:

The Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital offers a variety of supportive care programs for patients and families, from diagnosis through survivorship. These programs are available at no cost to the patients treated at Pennsylvania Hospital, and some are open to patients treated elsewhere. These services include social work counseling, nutrition counseling, psychological counseling and spiritual counseling.

The Cancer Appetite and Rehabilitation Clinic focuses on patients with loss of appetite and weight.

The Supportive Care Clinic helps to manage cancer related symptoms. Integrative support programs include:

Support groups and educational programs are available at Pennsylvania Hospital throughout the year.

Palliative Care

Palliative care provides medical and non-medical interventions to ease the symptoms of cancer and its treatment. Palliative care includes physical, emotional and spiritual care that can enhance the quality of life for cancer patients.

Palliative care can be used to complement traditional cancer therapies, or to and improve quality of life when curative therapies are no longer an option.

Palliative care is an approach to patient care that can be integrated with curative therapies at any point from diagnosis to survivorship or end-of-life care.

Palliative care services include palliative chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery as well as psychological counseling, art therapy and support groups for patients and families. The goals of palliative care are to enhance the quality of life for cancer patients and their families, and provide emotional and spiritual support to enhance personal growth.

Palliative care services are offered at Pennsylvania Hospital, and at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  

Penn Home Care and Hospice Services

Penn Home Care and Hospice Services offer a full range of home health care needs by partnering three top-level home health care services under one roof:

Penn Home Care and Hospice Services offer an array of specialized therapies and medications for patients with cancer and cancer-related conditions.

Patient Support Specialists

Every step of cancer treatment – from cancer diagnosis, to surgery and treatment to forming a survivorship plan – comes with different needs and issues that should be addressed.

Oncology Navigation Specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center are available to make a patient’s experience as seamless as possible. As experts in navigating complex health care situations, Patient Navigation specialists serve as a consistent point of contact and a reliable source for advice, support and direction for patients and families. They can help in a variety of ways including provide emotional support, identify resources, and ensure access to information, support services, educational programs and community resources.

Learn more about Patient Navigation specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center.

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Gallbladder Cancer Survivorship

Survivorship programs at Penn Medicine are a distinct phase of gallbladder cancer care and are designed to help patients' transition from their gallbladder cancer treatment routine to a post-cancer care lifestyle. There are more than 12 million cancer survivors living and thriving today as a result of advances in cancer treatment. However, cancer treatments can result in physical, emotional and financial complications long after the therapy is complete.

Personalized Survivorship Care

Personalized Survivorship Care

At the end of treatment, gallbladder cancer patients should schedule a survivorship visit with their oncologist and nurse practitioner. At this time, patients are provided with a summary of the treatment received as well as a plan for follow-up care.

Penn cancer providers work one-on-one with patients to develop survivorship care plans. Since every cancer is unique, the plans are tailored to the patients. 

The survivorship care plan includes information on:

  • Potential long-term or late side effects of cancer treatment, the symptoms and treatment.
  • Recommendations for cancer screening for disease recurrence or a new cancer.
  • Psychosocial effects, including relationships and sexuality.
  • Planning follow-up visits.

Survivorship care plans encourage patients to review the information with their health care team and become active participants in their follow-up care.

Penn also offers gallbladder cancer patients a number of support programs and groups to enhance their survivorship care plans.

Patient Support Specialists

Every step of cancer treatment – from cancer diagnosis, to surgery and treatment to forming a survivorship plan – comes with different needs and issues that should be addressed.

Oncology Navigation Specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center are available to make a patient’s experience as seamless as possible. As experts in navigating complex health care situations, Patient Navigation specialists serve as a consistent point of contact and a reliable source for advice, support and direction for patients and families. They can help in a variety of ways including; provide emotional support, identify resources, and ensure access to information, support services, educational programs and community resources.

Learn more about patient navigation specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center.

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Survivorship Programs at Penn Medicine

Survivorship Programs at Penn Medicine

Penn Medicine’s Living Well After Cancer™ Program is a nationally recognized program that focuses on issues facing cancer survivors. In 2007, the Abramson Cancer Center was designated a LIVESTRONG ™ Survivorship Center of Excellence Network.  The Abramson Cancer Center is only one of eight LIVESTRONG centers in the United States, and is the only LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence in the Philadelphia region. The program focuses on survivorship, a distinct phase of care.

Prescription for Living: The Cancer Survivorship Program at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital, provides patients with a summary of important information about specific cancer diagnoses and treatments, as well as follow-up information and steps to take towards recovery, supportive care and education to help patients adjust to their lives as cancer survivors.

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Continued Support

Continued Support

Penn offers cancer patients support programs and groups to enhance their survivorship care plans.

The Abramson Cancer Center and Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital provide materials and host a wide range of activities that provide education and support to address key areas of concern including survivorship for cancer patients and their loved ones.

Focus On: Gastrointestinal Cancers is a day-long conference that addresses issues for patients with gallbladder cancer, as well as their loved ones.

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Survivor Stories

Kristi Elder

Kristi Elder lived cancer free for 12 years after treatments in her mid-20s for a rare cancer. While coming to Penn for routine follow-up, a staff member recognized that Kristi could benefit from our survivorship program. In Kristi's first visit with our Living Well after Cancer program, she and the Director, Linda Jacobs, PhD, CRNP, simply talked for over an hour about her life. Kristi received personal counseling and referrals to specialists to deal with specific side effects from her cancer treatment. This past year, Kristi was again diagnosed with the same form of cancer. Her physician at Penn has enrolled her in a clinical trial, and she credits the Living Well After Cancer program with bringing her to a place emotionally and physically where she can handle this recurrence and be hopeful about the future.




Spotlight

Stand Up to Cancer

Peter O'Dwyer, MD, professor of Hematology-Oncology and program director of Development Therapeutics in the Abramson Cancer Center, was interviewed on NBC10's 10! Show about Penn's work as part of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team... Read more

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are studies to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. The purpose of each clinical trial is to answer a specific question. Our physicians carefully design these studies to find new ways to improve care and quality of life ... more about clinical trials