What Is a Gallbladder Polyp?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
A healthy gallbladder and one with gallstones.
A healthy gallbladder and one with gallstones.

A gallbladder polyp is a growth of cells that forms in the lining of a person’s gallbladder. The growths usually are relatively small, and though they are abnormal growths of tissue, they aren’t usually cancerous. In fact, most can be left alone and do not require medical treatment. Unfortunately, larger gallbladder polyps are more likely to be cancerous than smaller polyps, and doctors often recommend that patients have them removed surgically. Additionally, if the condition causes a great deal of pain or discomfort, surgical removal may be recommended.

Those who develop gallstones are more likely to also develop gallbladder polyps.
Those who develop gallstones are more likely to also develop gallbladder polyps.

Some people develop abnormal growths of cells in the lining of their gallbladders. These cell growths stick out from the lining, but are usually not large protrusions. Most gallbladder polyps are smaller than one-half inch (about 1.27 centimeters) in diameter.

Fortunately, a gallbladder polyp is unlikely to be cancerous. This fact, combined with the typical lack of symptoms in affected parties, usually means a person with this condition will not need medical treatment. The outlook may be different when a person has a large gallbladder polyp, however. This is because large polyps are more likely to prove cancerous. Often, doctors recommend the surgical removal of polyps that are larger than one-half inch (about 1.27 centimeters) in diameter.

Gallbladder polyps may be detected via ultrasound.
Gallbladder polyps may be detected via ultrasound.

Though a small gallbladder polyp may not require treatment, a doctor may still wish to monitor it. This way, he can evaluate the polyp for changes that may be cancerous. A smaller polyp that causes more severe symptoms might require removal as well. Additionally, an individual may need treatment if he has multiple polyps.

In most cases, a person with gallbladder polyps will not have any symptoms of the condition. When an individual does develop related symptoms, they are typically mild. For example, an individual might experience pain that develops in the upper-right side of his abdomen. In some cases, the pain is continuous while in others an individual may only experience episodes of discomfort. In the event that a patient has severe pain in the upper-right portion of his abdomen, he may be suffering from gallbladder stones rather than polyps.

Gallbladder polyps may cause pain that develops in the upper right side of the abdomen.
Gallbladder polyps may cause pain that develops in the upper right side of the abdomen.

Since gallbladder polyps do not usually cause symptoms, their presence is often discovered only when the patient is examined for another reason. For example, a gastric polyp may be discovered during an ultrasound ordered to check for the presence of gallstones. Sometimes they are also found when an ultrasound is performed to diagnose inflammation of the gallbladder.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a TheHealthBoard writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a TheHealthBoard writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

Sporkasia

@Laotionne - @Animandel is correct about the chances of developing gallbladder cancer being very very slim. This is why I was surprised when a work friend of mine was diagnosed with the disease. She had been having problems with her gallbladder, including infections and pain, but the thought that she might have cancer never entered out minds. We knew the condition was rare.

One thing I learned from my friend's experience is that women need to be more aware of what is going on with their gallbladders. For whatever reason, gallbladder cancer is so much more likely to be found in women than in men.

The outcome for my friend was good. The cancer was caught relatively early, before it had a chance to advance into the later stages. She had radiation treatment, which was no picnic, but she came through great.

Animandel

@Laotionne - Compared to some other cancers, gallbladder cancer is very rare. It is more common in some areas than in others, but I read that in England there are fewer than a thousand cases reported each year. This is very low when you think of how many cases of cancers like colon cancer are reported yearly.

In the UK you are more than 40 times more likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer than with cancer of the gallbladder. You definitely don't want to ignore any gall bladder symptoms, but know that the potential for cancer is low.

Laotionne

The article mentions that gallbladder polyps are seldom cancerous, which I am very happy to read. However, I am wondering just how common or how rare gallbladder cancer is. How many people does this disease affect? And how easily is it treated with positive results in the end?

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    • A healthy gallbladder and one with gallstones.
      By: Alila
      A healthy gallbladder and one with gallstones.
    • Those who develop gallstones are more likely to also develop gallbladder polyps.
      By: roblan
      Those who develop gallstones are more likely to also develop gallbladder polyps.
    • Gallbladder polyps may be detected via ultrasound.
      By: acherst
      Gallbladder polyps may be detected via ultrasound.
    • Gallbladder polyps may cause pain that develops in the upper right side of the abdomen.
      By: staras
      Gallbladder polyps may cause pain that develops in the upper right side of the abdomen.
    • Large gallbladder polyps may require surgical removal.
      By: dacasdo
      Large gallbladder polyps may require surgical removal.
    • Even if it's not treated, a doctor may want to monitor a patient who has a small gallbladder polyp.
      By: JackF
      Even if it's not treated, a doctor may want to monitor a patient who has a small gallbladder polyp.
    • Located underneath the liver, the gallbladder stores and concentrates bile produced by the liver.
      By: kaianni
      Located underneath the liver, the gallbladder stores and concentrates bile produced by the liver.