Bile Duct Cancer
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
- What is bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma)?
- What are the symptoms of bile duct cancer?
- How is bile duct cancer diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for bile duct cancer?
- What is the prognosis for bile duct cancer?
- Can bile duct cancer be prevented?
- Patient Comments: Bile Duct Cancer - Stage
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What is bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma)?
Bile duct cancer is a cancer that arises from the cells that line the drainage system for bile from the liver and gallbladder into the small intestine. The bile in the intestine helps with food digestion. Bile duct cancer is a rare form of cancer, with less than 3,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Bile duct cancer is also called cholangiocarcinoma.
There are three general locations where the cancer arises in the bile drainage system:
- Within the liver (intrahepatic): Affecting the bile ducts located within the liver
- Just outside of the liver (extrahepatic): also called perihilar, located at the notch of the liver where the bile ducts exit
- Far outside of the liver (distal extrahepatic): near where the bile ducts enter the intestine (called the ampulla of Vater)
Bile duct cancers are most commonly found just outside of the liver in the perihilar area and least commonly within the liver.
The incidence of bile duct cancer increases with age. The cancer is slow growing, invading local structures and for that reason, the diagnosis is often made late in the disease process often when the bile ducts are blocked preventing bile drainage from the liver and gallbladder into the intestine. Depending upon where the blockage occurs, this can lead to inflammation of the liver and pancreas.
Chronic inflammation of the bile ducts may be a risk factor for this cancer. Diseases that can cause chronic inflammation of the bile ducts include primary sclerosing cholangitis and chronic parasite infections. Native Americans are six times more likely to develop bile duct cancer. Asian Americans may also be at higher risk.
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