Early gallbladder carcinoma has a favorable outcome but Rokitansky–Aschoff sinus involvement is an adverse prognostic factor
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The general impression about gallbladder carcinomas is that they are uniformly fatal; however, for the early forms, an entirely different picture indicating a very good prognosis is evolving from the high-incidence regions. We subjected 190 early gallbladder carcinomas (EGBC), defined as carcinomas confined to and above the tunica muscularis (AJCC's Tis, T1a, and T1b), and identified in cholecystectomy specimens sampled entirely according to an established protocol, to detailed analysis. Average patient age was 57.9 years (29–95). In more than half of the cases (114/190; 60 %), the tumor was inapparent by gross examination. In 81 cases (42.6 %), carcinomatous epithelium abutted the muscularis, whereas 57.4 % (n = 109) were qualified as intramucosal with no overt contiguity with muscularis. Intraepithelial extension into Rokitansky–Aschoff sinuses (RAS) was found in 34 cases (17.8 %). At the time of data analysis, 171 patients (99 %) were alive. Overall actuarial survival was 92.3 % at 5 years and 90.4 % at 10 years. The 5- and 10-year actuarial survival rates of the intramucosal group (93.2 and 92.1 %, respectively) were not statistically different from that of the muscle-abutting group (89.7 % and 88.2 % ; p = 0.334). Patients with RAS involvement had a significantly shorter survival than those without (p < 0.001). Of the 33 patients with RAS involvement, 13 (39 %) died of disease, whereas only 6 of the 154 patients (4 %) without RAS involvement died of disease. Disease-related mortality in these cases occurred relatively late (median 48 months). EGBC has a very good prognosis with a 90 % 10-year survival rate. It is seen on average in patients almost a decade younger than those with advanced cancers. RAS involvement is an independent prognostic factor, and additional surgery may have to be considered for such cases. Occasional recurrences are encountered several years later, which suggests a field-effect phenomenon and warrants long-term follow-up.