Cancerous tumours of the gallbladder

A cancerous tumour of the gallbladder can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Cancerous tumours are also called malignant tumours.

There are different forms of gallbladder cancer based on where they are and how they look:

  • Infiltrative is the most common form. It has an irregular shape and spreads in the wall of the gallbladder.
  • Nodular looks like small, round lumps. It often grows through the wall of the gallbladder.
  • Papillary grows into the gallbladder cavity. It looks like a small nipple or cauliflower.

The most common type of cancerous tumour of the gallbladder is adenocarcinoma. It makes up more than 90% of all gallbladder cancers. There are many different subtypes, including:

  • biliary adenocarcinoma
  • intestinal type adenocarcinoma
  • papillary adenocarcinoma

Papillary adenocarcinomas are less likely to spread than other types of adenocarcinomas, so they tend to have a better outlook (prognosis).

Rare types of gallbladder cancer include squamous cell cancer, sarcoma, lymphoma, melanoma, carcinoid and neuroendocrine carcinomas.

Expert review and references

  • Adsay, N. V., and Klimstra, D. . Pathology of Biliary Tract Cancer. Kelsen, D. P., Daly, J. M., Kern, S. E., Levin, B., Tepper, J. E., & Van Cutsem, E. (eds.). Principles and Practice of Gastrointestinal Oncology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008: 35:475-482.
  • Gallbladder cancer. American Cancer Society. Gallbladder Cancer. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2014.
  • Hodgin MB . Gallbladder and bile duct cancer. Yarbro, CH, Wujcki D, & Holmes Gobel B. (eds.). Cancer Nursing: Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett; 2011: Chapter 55. pp: 1316-1333.
  • Patel,T. and Borad, M.J. . Cancer of the biliary tree. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 53:715-733.
  • Siegel, A.B., Sheynzon,V., and Samstein, B. . Uncommon Hepatobiliary tumors. Raghavan, E., Blanke, C.D., Johnson, D. H., et al. (Eds.). Textbook of Uncommon Cancer. 4th ed. Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons; 2012: 31:441-452.

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