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Bile Duct Cancer (Cholangiocarcinoma) (cont.)

Understanding Cancer: Metastasis, Stages of Cancer, Pictures
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What is the treatment for bile duct cancer?

Treatment for bile duct cancer depends upon where the cancer is located and whether it is possible for it to be completely removed by surgery. Unfortunately, those afflicted with this cancer tend to be older and may be unable to tolerate and recover from a significant operation. The decision regarding surgery needs to be individualized for the specific patient and their situation.

Other treatment options tend to be palliative, not curative, and are meant to preserve quality of life. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be options that are suggested to treat bile duct cancer.

Photodynamic therapy is another alternative to help shrink the tumor and control symptoms.

Radioembolization is an option if the tumor cannot be removed by surgery. With radioembolization, small amounts of radioactive material are injected into the arteries that supply the tumor in hopes of shrinking the tumor size by impeding its blood supply.

ERCP may be used to stent the bile duct, keeping it open to allow bile drainage from the liver and gallbladder into the intestine. This is often very helpful in controlling symptoms but does not treat the tumor itself.

Pain control may be an issue because the enlarging tumor can cause significant pain in the abdomen and back. Regional anesthetic blocks may be useful in controlling pain.

As with all cancers, the treatment is individualized for the patient. Discussion between the patient, health-care professional, and family are important to help understand treatment options, including cure versus palliative care or symptom control and quality of life. The patient's wishes are key.

What are the complications of bile duct cancer?

Obstruction of the bile duct can lead to infection of the bile drainage system or cholangitis.

Cirrhosis may develop in bile duct cancer. This may be due to the tumor obstructing the bile duct and causing liver cell destruction and scarring. This is especially true in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis. Both cirrhosis and sclerosing cholangitis are listed as potential risk factors for bile duct cancer.

Other complications may be a consequence of the procedures used to diagnose and treat the cancer. These include complications of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/12/2018



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