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What is gall bladder cancer?

Gall bladder cancer occurs when cells in the gall bladder become abnormal and keep growing to form a mass or lump called a tumour. The tumour type is defined by the particular cells that are affected.

The most common type is adenocarcinoma, which starts in epithelial cells (which release mucus) that line the inside of the gall bladder. These make up about 85% of all gall bladder cancers. Other types of gall bladder cancer include:

  • squamous cell carcinoma, from squamous cells (skin-like cells)
  • sarcoma, from connective tissue (which support and connect all the organs and structures of the body)
  • lymphoma, from lymph tissue (part of the immune system which protects the body).

Malignant (cancerous) tumours have the potential to spread to other parts of the body through the blood stream or lymph vessels and form another tumour deposit at a new site. This new tumour is known as secondary cancer or metastasis.

How common is gall bladder cancer?

Gall bladder cancer is rare. About 891 Australians are diagnosed each year with gall bladder or bile duct cancer (about 3 cases per 100,000 people). It is more likely to be diagnosed in women than men, and people aged over 65 years.

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed February 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: Kathleen Boys, Consumer; Dr Julian Choi, HPB Surgeon, Western Health and Epworth Hospital, Vic; David Fry, Consumer; Dr Robert Gandy, Hepatobiliary Surgeon, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, NSW; Yvonne King 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Elizabeth Lynch, Consumer; Dr Jenny Shannon, Medical Oncologist, Nepean Hospital Cancer Centre, NSW.