The bile ducts move bile from the liver into the small intestines. Cancer of these glands is called cholangiocarcinoma. This is a very rare type of cancer in the Western world, with only 1-2 cases diagnosed per 100,000 people, but there has been an increase in diagnoses in the rest of the world.
Bile Duct Cancer Signs & Symptoms
Cholangiocarcinoma is usually in an advanced stage by the time any signs or symptoms develop. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Abnormal liver function test results
Other patients have complained about generalized persistent itching, fever, or changes in the color of their stool or urine.
Bile Duct Cancer Diagnosis & Staging
Bile duct cancer can be difficult to detect and diagnose. Most medical professionals rely on blood tests, an endoscopy, and medical imaging to make an accurate diagnosis, frequently combined with exploratory surgery to identify the location of the tumor.
This type of cancer is staged based on whether or not the tumor is operable. If the tumor is too far advanced, or too delicate to be removed, the patient’s survival rate diminishes considerably.
The tumor can likely be removed if any of the following are in place:
▪ It has not spread to the lymph nodes or liver
▪ It has not invaded the portal vein
▪ It has not spread to any adjacent organs
▪ It has not spread to any distant organs
Bile Duct Cancer Treatment
The most effective treatment for cholangiocarcinoma is surgery to remove the tumor. Additionally, some patients have had liver transplants to help increase their odds of recovery and survival.
Bile Duct Cancer Outlook
A patient’s outlook is based largely on whether or not the tumor has been removed. Other factors include the stage and location of the cancer (upper or lower part of the bile duct), and whether the cancer has recently been diagnosed or has recurred. Cholangiocarcinoma is a particularly aggressive form of cancer, and fatal in almost all cases.