There are reasons why you cannot count on an ultrasound for detecting gallbladder cancer; yet, it can “miss” it.

“The usual diagnostic study for gallstone-related disease is ultrasonography (US),” says Akram Alashari, MD, abdominal surgeon and critical care physician, Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, University of Florida.

Many patients with an incidental gallbladder cancer are found retrospectively to have had suspicious US findings (e.g., a solitary or displaced stone, or an intraluminal or invasive mass) that were not recognized preoperatively.

“Findings that are suggestive but not diagnostic of gallbladder cancer include mural thickening or calcification, a mass protruding into the lumen, a fixed mass in the gallbladder, loss of the interface between the gallbladder and liver, or direct liver infiltration.”

Unfortunately…

“The overall accuracy of US for staging the local and distant extent of a suspected gallbladder cancer is limited,” says Dr. Alashari. “In one report of 26 patients, accuracy was only 38 percent, and the sensitivity for detection of liver infiltration or nodal metastases was only 50 percent each.”