What is bile duct cancer
Bile ducts transport bile, which helps break down the fat in our food. Bile duct cancer develops in part of the bile duct lining, when abnormal cells start to multiply. They can spread into other areas including the gallbladder or pancreas.
Cancer can begin in any part of the ducts including:
• Intra-hepatic region: ducts inside the liver
• Extra-hepatic region: ducts outside the liver
Extra-hepatic bile ducts are split into two areas:
• Hilar – where the right and left ducts meet, below the liver
• Distal – the lower section of the ducts, near the bowel
Causes of bile duct cancer
Doctors don’t yet know what causes bile duct cancer, but some things can make it more likely. These include:
• Abnormal bile ducts
• Bile duct stones
• Hepatitis B or C
• Infection with a parasite called liver fluke (most common in Africa and Asia)
• Liver disease (cirrhosis)
• Long-term inflammatory conditions such as ulcerative colitis or primary sclerosing cholangitis
Symptoms of bile duct cancer
In its early stages, you may not have any symptoms. As the cancer develops, you may have:
Dark urine and pale stools
High temperature (fever)
Jaundice (skin and whites of eyes becoming yellow)
Loss of appetite
Pain in your abdomen
Unexplained weight loss
Having these symptoms doesn’t mean you have bile duct cancer, but it’s best to get them checked by a doctor. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor will discuss your symptoms with you. You may be referred to hospital for further tests including:
- Biopsy – where a tiny sample of tissue is taken for analysis
- Blood tests
- Scans including ultrasound, CT and MRI
- Endoscopy (camera tests)
Treatments we offer
Bile duct cancers are difficult to treat and your specialist doctor (oncologist) will discuss the treatment options with you. Possible treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.
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We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.
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