There are several types of gallbladder cancer, all of which begin when cells within the gallbladder undergo changes that cause them to grow and divide uncontrollably. The precise underlying cause of these changes remains unclear, but scientists have linked the transformation to damaged cellular DNA. Unlike healthy cells, abnormal cells accumulate at a rapid pace and don’t die off when they should. As a result, the excess cells can form tumors and potentially invade other organs and tissues.
The specific types of gallbladder cancer include:
- Adenocarcinoma – The most common form of gallbladder cancer, adenocarcinomas initially develop within the gland-like cells that line the organs in the digestive tract.
- Papillary adenocarcinoma – When viewed under a microscope, these cancer cells are arranged in finger-like projections within the gallbladder. Compared to other types of gallbladder cancer, papillary adenocarcinoma is much less likely to spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant organs, such as the liver.
- Less common types – While adenosquamous carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, small cell carcinomas and sarcomas can potentially develop in the gallbladder, these cancer types are seen much less frequently than adenocarcinoma and papillary adenocarcinoma.
Because each type of gallbladder cancer grows at a different rate and responds uniquely to therapy, an accurate diagnosis is essential for determining the most appropriate form of treatment. The multispecialty team at Moffitt Cancer Center thoroughly reviews each patient’s case and collaboratively develops an individualized plan that incorporates diagnosis, treatment and supportive care. Each patient benefits from the opinions of multiple experts, including surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, radiation oncologists and supportive care specialists – all in a single location. Additionally, the scientists and clinicians at Moffitt are working continually to improve the standard of care for gallbladder cancer. As a result, we are able to offer patients access to innovative clinical trials and groundbreaking treatment options that are unavailable elsewhere.