Gallbladder Cancer: Introduction

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2018

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some basic information about this disease and the parts of the body it may affect. This is the first page of Cancer.Net’s Guide to Gallbladder Cancer. Use the menu to see other pages. Think of that menu as a roadmap for this complete guide.

Gallbladder cancer occurs when healthy cells in the gallbladder change and grow out of control, forming a mass called a tumor. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor means the tumor can grow but will not spread. This section is about primary gallbladder cancer. Primary gallbladder cancer is cancer that starts in the gallbladder, as opposed to cancer that begins somewhere else in the body and spreads to the gallbladder.

About the gallbladder

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ located just under the liver. It is part of the biliary tract, along with the liver and bile ducts. The gallbladder stores bile, a fluid made by the liver that helps to digest fats. Bile travels through the liver to the gallbladder through the intra-hepatic bile ducts for storage. It is released from the gallbladder through a tube, called the common bile duct, as food is broken down in the stomach and small intestine.

The gallbladder’s wall is made up of 3 main layers of tissue:

  • The mucosa, which is the innermost layer and covers the wall of the gallbladder

  • The muscularis, the middle layer of smooth muscle

  • The serosa, the outer layer

Primary gallbladder cancer begins in the inner layer and spreads into the outer layers as it grows.

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The next section in this guide is Statistics. It helps explain the number of people who are diagnosed with gallbladder cancer and general survival rates. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.