Gallbladder Polyps

Gallbladder polyps are common occurrences, and in majority of cases they do not progress to cancer. Let us know more in depth about them.
HealthHearty Staff
Gallbladder polyps are one of the most common protrusions that occur within the lining of the gallbladder. It is said they affect about 4 to 5% of people. In majority of cases, one does not require any kind of treatment for this condition. People diagnosed with it often have many doubts regarding these growths. The following paragraphs will discuss information that will help clear all doubts regarding this condition.
An Overview
Gallbladder polyps are lesions that occur in the inner lining of the gallbladder; they protrude from the walls. They are harmless growths that are made up of cholesterol and inflammatory muscle tissues. Around 95% of the cases are non-cancerous and do not give rise to cancer. However, in a few cases, these polyps are adenomatous in nature and progress to form cancerous tumors. The diseased gallbladder, where the wall of the organ becomes very thick due to excessive growth of cellular layer is called adenomyomatosis.
There are five types of growths that may occur in a patient. These include cholesterosis, adenocarcinoma, hyperplastic, adenomyatosis and cholecystitis. The most common forms are cholestrosis and adenocarcinoma. Cholestrosis occurs due to accumulation of cholesterol in the gallbladder as well as the mucosal membrane of the organ. Adenocarcinoma is a form of gallbladder cancer. Thus, it is supposed to be a dangerous form of polyp. Hyperplastic polyps are serrated, while adenomyatosis of gallbladder is a type of hyperplastic cholecystoses and cholecystitis is the inflammation of gallbladder due to presence of gallstones.
Size of the Polyps
The size is the main factor that helps in determining whether it is cancerous or non-cancerous. A polyp that is about ½ inch in size (around 10 mm), is said to be benign. These growths do not require any kind of treatment. An outgrowth of the mucosal lining of the gallbladder that develops into a finger-like projection is known as cholesterolosis or strawberry gallbladder. This occurs due to excessive accumulation of cholesterol and triglycerides in the epithelial lining within the macrophages. These growths are usually benign in nature. Those that are larger than 10 mm in diameter are said to be high-risk ones, and may turn malignant. These need to be treated with cholecystectomy.
Symptoms are mostly not seen. The growths are mostly discovered accidentally during an ultrasound checkup for some other condition, or abdominal pain. These very commonly occur in people who suffer from gallstones. If one does experience symptoms, they generally include pain and tenderness in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. A severe pain in the upper right abdominal region usually indicates gallstones.
Diagnostic Tests
The polyps as mentioned above are found during an ultrasound examination. This examination helps in determining the size of the growth. Apart from an ultrasound, the doctor may suggest positron emission tomography (PET scan) or computerized tomography (CT scan). This helps in evaluation of the cancerous cells in case of large ones.
In most cases, polyps do not require any treatment as they are harmless. However, those that have the potential of turning cancerous have to be treated. In this case, it is necessary to examine them over a period of time. This helps the doctor understand if it is turning cancerous, or remains benign. Otherwise, the patient is asked to undergo cholecystectomy (removal of gallbladder). If the polyps are less than 1 cm or 1.5 cm in diameter, the doctor will regularly monitor its progress and evaluate any suspicious developments.
Gallbladder polyps that are over a centimeter is size, have about 70% chances of turning cancerous. Thus, a polyp that is about 1 cm to 1.5 cm, is monitored regularly for about two years. If after this period, there are no changes, it is assumed that management is not required. Depending upon the type of condition, the doctor will decide the treatment plan.