A gallbladder polyp is a small, abnormal growth of tissue which emerges from the lining of the inside of the gallbladder (a small organ that stores bile and passes it from the liver to the small intestine). They are often made up of cholesterol and are relatively common.
Can gallbladder polyps be cancerous?
The majority of gallbladder polyps are harmless and non-cancerous. Such polyps are made up of cholesterol buildup. But in rare cases, gallbladder polyps may be small tumors which are cancerous in nature.
About 95 percent of gallbladder polyps are non-cancerous while others can be cancerous (malignant tumors). In case of gallbladder polyps, size matters a lot. The larger the size of the polyp, greater is the risk of gallbladder cancer. Gallbladder polyp size is often an indication of the presence of cancer:
- Gallbladder polyps which are less than 1/2 inch in diameter are considered benign and in most cases, no treatment is required.
- Gallbladder polyps which are larger than 1/2 inch in diameter have greater chances of being cancerous or becoming malignant over time.
- Gallbladder polyps which are larger than 3/4 inch in diameter have the highest probability of being malignant. Treatment of such polyps includes surgical removal of the gallbladder. Read about Gallbladder Removal Surgery (Cholecystectomy).
Can gallbladder polyps cause pain?
Gallbladder polyps may not show any symptoms at all. But they may cause biliary colic (abdominal pain coming from the gallbladder). Such pain is often caused by gallstones, but in absence of gallstones, gallbladder polyps may be blamed. Gallbladder polyps pain is mild in nature, if at all there is any.
Gallbladder polyps cancer symptoms
In many cases, people with gallbladder polyps show no symptoms. However, some people complain about the following mild symptoms:
- Occasional pain and tenderness in the right part of the upper abdomen (The pain can be steady or intermittent. If the pain is severe, it is usually caused by gallstones, not polyps)
Gallbladder polyps treatment and diagnosis
Gallbladder polyps can be diagnosed in a physical exam when the doctor examines you for some other illness.
If your doctor suspects something worrying, he or she may order tests for gallbladder polyps to diagnose the polyp and its size. Tests for diagnosing polyps may include:
- abdominal ultrasound
- endoscopic ultrasound
Polyps are treated based on their sizes.
If the polyps are less than 1/2 inch in diameter, your doctor may suggest regular ultrasounds to monitor their growths and progression toward cancer. Your doctor may recommend abdominal or endoscopic ultrasounds.
If the polyps are larger than 1/2 inch in diameter, your doctor may recommend surgical removal of the gallbladder. This method is called cholecystectomy.