The surgery to remove the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy. If only the gallbladder is removed, it’s called a simple cholecystectomy. This operation is done when gallbladder is being removed for other reasons such as gallstones.
As discussed above, gallbladder cancers are mostly diagnosed accidentally, while a person is undergoing cholecystectomy for some other reason. So in that case, if the cancer is at a very early stage and has been removed completely, no further surgery may be needed after that. But, if there’s a chance that the cancer has spread beyond the gallbladder, more extensive surgery may be advised and planned thereafter.
A simple cholecystectomy can be done in two ways:
- Laparoscopic cholecystectomy: This is the most common way to remove a gallbladder for non-cancerous condition. During the procedure, the surgeon puts a laparoscope that’s a thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera on the end, into the body through a small cut in the skin of the abdomen. Followed by which long surgical tools are put in through other small openings to remove the gallbladder. Laparoscopic surgery tends to be easier for patients because of the smaller incision size. But this type of operation isn’t used if gallbladder cancer is suspected as this surgery gives the surgeon only a limited view of the area around the gallbladder.
- Open cholecystectomy: The surgeon takes out the gallbladder through a large incision in the abdominal wall. This method is sometimes used for gallbladder problems that are not cancerous, and may lead to the discovery of gallbladder cancer. But if gallbladder cancer is suspected before surgery, doctors prefer to do an extended cholecystectomy.
Because of the risk that the cancer will come back, if just the gallbladder is removed, a more extensive operation, called an extended (or radical) cholecystectomy, is done in most cases of gallbladder cancer. This is usually a complex operation and the extent of the surgery depends on where the cancer is and how far it has spread.
But generally, during an extended cholecystectomy gallbladder along with all lymph nodes in the region and also an inch or more of liver tissue (next to the gallbladder) are removed.
Sometimes, the pancreas, the duodenum and bile duct, etc., may also be removed during the surgery.