Gallbladder carcinoma and carcinoma of the bile ducts are relatively rare cancers in the United States. These cancers are often diagnosed in an advanced stage due to their nonspecific symptomatology and until recently have been associated with a dismal prognosis. Recent advances in imaging and surgical techniques along with emerging options in palliative chemotherapy have improved the outlook in these cancers. While complete surgical resection remains the only hope of cure in both these cancers, palliative biliary decompression and chemotherapy result in substantial improvement in quality of life. Part 1 of this review provides a relevant and comprehensive update of molecular pathology, imaging modalities, and surgical care. In part 2, which will appear next month, we will review palliative care and systemic therapy in gallbladder and biliary tract carcinomas, as well as the use of liver transplantation in the treatment of cholangiocarcinomas. These strategies are of relevance to internists as well as oncologists caring for these patients.