Gallbladder cancer is cancer that starts in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ beneath the liver. These organs (liver and gallbladder) are found right behind the right lower ribs. It is about 3 to 4 inches long and wider in adults as opposed to in young people. (1)

Functions Of The Gallbladder

The gallbladder stores and concentrates bile (a fluid that is formed in the liver). It aids in the digestion of fats in foods as they go through the small intestine. Bile can be stored in the gallbladder before being released into the small intestine. During digestion especially of fatty foods, the gallbladder contracts and releases bile through the cystic duct (small tube).

The cystic duct meets the common hepatic duct from the liver to form a common bile duct. The common bile duct combines with the main duct from the pancreas to empty the duodenum at the ampulla Vater. Though the gallbladder is useful, many people can live without it and survive for many years.

Types Of Gallbladder Cancer

The kind of cancer tells one the kind of cell in which it started. There are more types of gallbladder cancers because there are numerous and different kinds of cells in the gallbladder. Any of these cells can grow abnormally and become cancerous if not detected in early stages. (2)


This is the most common type of gallbladder cancer. It constitutes more than 85% of gallbladder cancers. These cancers start in gland cells that are found in the lining of the gallbladder. They have located both internal and external surfaces of the body. These gland aids in the formation of a thick fluid (mucus). There are three types of adenocarcinomas, and they include:

  • Nonpapillary adenocarcinoma: Consists of about 75%of gallbladder cancers.
  • Papillary adenocarcinoma: Constitutes to about 6% of gallbladder cancers. These type of tumors develop in the connective tissues (tissues that hold the gallbladder in place) of the gallbladder. This kind of cancer is not likely to metastasize to the nearby lymph nodes and the liver. It also has a better prognosis as compared to other types of cancers. When these cells in the gallbladder are viewed under the microscope, they appear to be arranged in finger-like projections.
  • Mucinous adenocarcinoma: They are quite often present in pools of mucus. It constitutes to about 2% of gallbladder cancers

Squamous Cell Cancer

These are cancers that develop from the skin like cells that make up the lining of the gallbladder together with the gland cells. They tend to have a similar outlook with adenocarcinoma. (3)

Adenosquamous Cancer

Adenosquamous carcinomas are types of cancers that have a combination of both squamous cells and glandular cancer cells. Doctors usually refer to this as mixed histology. Doctors treat them the same way as adenocarcinomas because they happen to have a universal outlook.

Neuroendocrine Tumor

These are a rare type of cancers that grow from tissues that are responsible for the production of hormones, especially in the digestive system. The most common type of neuroendocrine tumor is the carcinoid


This is cancer that affects the supportive or protecting tissues of the body. It also affects the connective tissues (muscles, blood vessels and nerves). Sarcoma begins in the muscle layer of the gallbladder.

Lymphoma And Melanoma

Lastly, these are rare types of gallbladder cancer. Doctors treat them the same way as other types of cancers. Lymphomas tend to respond well to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This makes it difficult to treat lymphomas and melanomas with surgery.