Know the basics
What is gallbladder polyps?
Gallbladder polyps are growths that protrude from the lining of the inside of the gallbladder. Gallbladder polyps are typically detected on an ultrasound.
The majority of gallbladder polyps are harmless — composed of cholesterol buildup, not cancer cells. But, gallbladder polyps may actually be small tumors — some of which may be cancerous while others are benign growths. These small growths can poke out from the inside of the gallbladder wall.
When it comes to gallbladder polyps, size definitely matters: The larger the polyp, the greater the risk of gallbladder cancer. Polyps that are larger than 1 centimeter are most likely to be cancerous, so doctors often recommend removing the gallbladder in patients with gallbladder polyps that size or larger. Those smaller than that are unlikely to be — or to eventually become — cancerous.
How common is gallbladder polyps?
Gallbladder polyps can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of gallbladder polyps?
Gallbladder polyps may not cause any symptoms at all. But they may cause biliary colic (abdominal pain coming from the gallbladder). This type of pain is often caused by gallstones, but if they are not found, gallbladder polyps may be to blame.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes gallbladder polyps?
The exact cause of these growths is still unknown. While these lesions are often benign, this is not always the case; there’s even some evidence suggesting a person’s age, the presence of gallstones, or larger polyp size could be linked to malignancy. However, since polyps aren’t usually diagnosed until either an abdominal ultrasound or gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy), it’s important to be aware of what could be a serious health issue.
What increases my risk for gallbladder polyps?
Polyps of gall bladder are tumor-like lesions of this organ. Little has been known about factors associated with the occurrence of gallbladder polyps. The formation of gallbladder polyps is however associated with fat metabolism. Relationship between gallbladder polyps and family history of some diseases suggests to perform some genetic studies.
Patients with congenital polyposis syndromes such as Peutz-Jeghers and Gardner syndrome can also develop gallbladder polyps. A large retrospective analysis of risk factors for gallbladder polyps in the Chinese population identified chronic hepatitis B as a risk factor.
Proposed patient risk factors for malignant gallbladder polyps include age greater than 60, presence of gallstones, and primary sclerosing cholangitis. Polyp risk characteristics include a size greater than 6 mm, solitary, and sessile.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is gallbladder polyps diagnosed?
To get a good look at the gallbladder, an ultrasound is typically performed. Gallbladder polyps will usually be seen on an ultrasound, and their size (and how potentially dangerous they might be) can then be measured.
Positron emission tomography (PET) or computed tomography (CT) scans can help evaluate the likelihood of cancerous cells in larger gallbladder polyps. These tests can both be used to monitor gallbladder polyps over time to spot any suspicious changes that could indicate gallbladder cancer.
How is gallbladder polyps treated?
So if it’s a harmless gallbladder polyp, what do you do about it? That’s a question that’s the subject of much research.
The answer seems to have a lot to do with the size of the polyp and its likelihood of becoming cancerous. There are basically two options: Watch and wait, or undergo gallbladder removal surgery (cholecystectomy). Very small polyps, those less than 1 centimeter (or less than 1.5 cm, according to some studies) may not need gallbladder removal surgery, and instead can be regularly monitored by scanning and re-evaluated for any suspicious changes that could indicate gallbladder cancer.
Polyps larger than 1 centimeter in size are more likely to become cancerous, especially those that are 1.5 centimeter across and larger — they have a 46 to 70 percent chance of containing cancer cells.
Monitoring for gallbladder polyps less than 1.5 centimeter should occur every three to six months for up to two years, after which it can be stopped if there have been no changes in the polyps. It isn’t recommended that gallbladder polyps smaller than 0.5 centimeter across be treated by having the gallbladder removed. In gallbladder polyps that are that small, the risk of gallbladder cancer is extremely rare.
Gallbladder polyps that appear cancerous can be treated by surgical removal of the gallbladder. For larger gallbladder polyps, cholecystectomy may also be recommended to prevent the development of gallbladder cancer.
Deciding how to treat gallbladder polyps requires using thoughtful balance — weighing the potential risks of surgery against the potential risks of the development of gallbladder cancer. Paying attention to the overall cancer risk and considering careful monitoring of gallbladder polyps can be an effective treatment strategy to preserve your health.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage gallbladder polyps?
Your diet may play a role. You should eat foods high in fiber and healthy fats to help prevent gallstones. Refined grains (found in sugary cereals and white rice, bread, and pasta) and sugar are associated with a higher risk of gallbladder disease. Whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat bread and fats from fish and olive oil are all recommended.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
What are the risk factors for gallbladder cancer? http://www.cancer.org/cancer/gallbladdercancer/detailedguide/gallbladder-risk-factors. Accessed 10 Feb, 2017.
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Gallbladder polyps. http://www.mayoclinic.org/gallbladder-polyps/img-20005745. Accessed 10 Feb, 2017.
Gallbladder Polyps. http://www.everydayhealth.com/gallbladder/gallbladder-polyps.aspx. Accessed 10 Feb, 2017.
Andrén-Sandberg, Å. (2012). Diagnosis and Management of Gallbladder Polyps. North American Journal of Medical Sciences, 4(5), 203–211. http://doi.org/10.4103/1947-2714.95897
Gallbladder Problems: Disease, Symptoms & Natural Remedies. http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/gallbladder-problems-disease-symptoms-natural-remedies/. Accessed 10 Feb, 2017.
Review Date: February 11, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019