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Types of gallbladder cancer

More than 85 out of every 100 gallbladder cancers are adenocarcinomas. This cancer starts in gland cells in the gallbladder lining. These cells produce mucus (thick fluid). There are three types of gallbladder adenocarcinomas

  • Non papillary adenocarcinoma
  • Papillary adenocarcinoma
  • Mucinous adenocarcinoma

Less common cancers

Less common cancers of the gallbladder include

  • Squamous cell cancer
  • Adenosquamous cancer of the gallbladder
  • Small cell cancer of the gallbladder
  • Gallbladder sarcomas

Doctors treat squamous cell gallbladder cancer and adenosquamous gallbladder cancer in the same way as adenocarcinomas.

Rare cancers

Rare gallbladder cancers include neuroendocrine cancers, lymphoma and melanoma. These cancers will not necessarily be treated in the same way as the other gallbladder cancers covered in this section.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the about gallbladder cancer section.

 

Why there are different types

There is more than one type of gallbladder cancer because there are lots of different types of cells in the gallbladder. Any of these cell types could, in theory, develop into cancer.

The type of cell that the cancer originally developed from within the gallbladder decides the exact type of cancer you have. So if the cancer started in gland cells, it is an adenocarcinoma. If the cancer started in the skin like cells lining the gallbladder, it is a squamous cell cancer and so on.

More than 85% of gallbladder cancers are adenocarcinoma. The other rare types together make up about 15 out of every 100 cases (15%).

 

The most common type (adenocarcinoma)

More than 85 out of every 100 gallbladder cancers (85%) are adenocarcinomas. This means that the cancer started in gland cells in the gallbladder lining. The gland cells normally produce mucus (thick fluid). There are three types of adenocarcinomas of the gallbladder. You may hear your doctor talking about

More than 75 out of every 100 gallbladder cancers (75%) are non papillary adenocarcinomas.

Only about 6 out of every 100 diagnosed gallbladder cancers (6%) are papillary adenocarcinomas. These develop in the tissues that hold the gallbladder in place (connective tissues). This type of gallbladder cancer is less likely to spread to the liver and nearby lymph nodes. It tends to have a better outlook than most other types of gallbladder cancer.

With mucinous adenocarcinomas, the cancer cells are often in pools of mucus, which is how the cancer gets its name. Only about 1 or 2 out of every 100 gallbladder cancers (1 or 2%) are mucinous adenocarcinomas.

 

Squamous cell cancer of the gallbladder

Squamous cell cancers develop from the skin like cells that form the lining of the gallbladder, along with the gland cells. Doctors treat these cancers in the same way as adenocarcinomas.

 

Adenosquamous cancer of the gallbladder

Adenosquamous carcinomas are cancers that have both squamous cancer cells and glandular cancer cells. Your doctor may call this a mixed histology. Doctors treat these cancers in the same way as adenocarcinomas.

 

Small cell cancer of the gallbladder

Small cell carcinomas are also called oat cell carcinomas. They are called this because the cancer cells are a distinctive oat shape.

 

Sarcoma of the gallbladder

Sarcoma is the name for a cancer that affects the supportive or protecting tissues of the body - also called the connective tissues. Muscles, blood vessels and nerves are all connective tissues. A cancer that begins in the muscle layer of the gallbladder is a sarcoma.

 

Neuroendocrine tumour of the gallbladder

Neuroendocrine tumours are rare cancers that grow from hormone producing tissues, usually in the digestive system. The most common type of neuroendocrine tumour is called carcinoid. We have detailed information about carcinoid tumours.

 

Lymphoma and melanoma of the gallbladder

These are extremely rare types of gallbladder cancer. If you are looking for information on these rare cancers, the treatment sections in the lymphoma or melanoma sections will be more appropriate for you. They will not necessarily be treated in the same way as the other gallbladder cancer types covered in this section. Lymphomas, for example, tend to respond well to chemotherapy and radiotherapy and so you are very unlikely to have surgery if you have a lymphoma.

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Updated: 22 August 2012