(Bile Duct Cancer; Cancer, Bile Duct)
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Cholangiocarcinoma is the growth of cancer cells in the bile duct. The bile ducts are tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine. Bile is a digestive fluid.
Bile duct cancers are named by their location.
Cancer happens when cells divide without control or order. These cells grow together to form a tumor. They can invade and damage nearby tissues. They can also spread to other parts of the body.
Bile duct cancer may be caused by defects in certain genes. Other causes are likely due to genes and environment.
Bile duct cancer is more common in people 65 years and older. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Other possible risks may be due to:
In the early stages there may be no symptoms. As the cancer grows, symptoms may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Blood tests will help to check how well the liver and gallbladder are working. These tests may also help to find tumor marker, signs of cancer in the body.
Imaging tests can check the bile duct and nearby structures. These may include:
Other tests may include:
The exam and test results will be used for staging. This will outline how far and fast the cancer has spread.
The goal is to remove the cancer, if possible. Treatment depends on the stage and site of the cancer. It also depends on the person's health. A combination of treatments may be used. Options may include:
The risk of bile duct cancer may be reduced by treating certain conditions that raise the risk.
American Cancer Society
The National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Provincial Health Services Authority
Bile duct cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/bile-duct-cancer.html. Accessed March 19, 2021.
Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma). Cancer.Net—American Society of Clinical Oncology website. Available at: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/bile-duct-cancer-cholangiocarcinoma. Accessed March 19, 2021.
Cholangiocarcinoma and gallbladder cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/cholangiocarcinoma-and-gallbladder-cancer . Accessed March 19, 2021.
Doherty B, Nambudiri VE, et al. Update on the diagnosis and treatment of cholangiocarcinoma. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2017;19(1):2.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/19/2021