Bile Duct Cancer

Bile duct begins in the liver and ends in the small intestine. Cancer that originates in any part of the bile duct is called bile duct cancer. It can be extra hepatic or intra hepatic based on whether the cancer is located in the duct outside or inside the liver, respectively. The cancer that starts in the junction of the bile ducts is called Klatskin’s Tumor.

Signs and Symptoms

As the cancerous growth blocks the bile duct, the first symptoms experienced by the patient include jaundice due to accumulation of bile. Hence the urine also turns dark yellow while the stools turn pale. Severe itching is caused due to the accumulation of bilirubin and bile salts in the skin. Other common symptoms are weight loss, fever, loss of appetite and abdominal pain.


There are many factors that influence the development of bile cancer in an individual including age, genetic factors, lifestyle etc. It is a rare form of cancer that can be triggered by underlying conditions such as chronic liver inflammation, ulcerative colitis and cysts in the bile duct. Other conditions include inflammatory bowel syndrome, biliary stones, hepatitis or parasitic infections. Exposure to asbestos and its raw materials is also a major contributing factor.

Test & Procedures

Starting with clinical symptoms, diagnosis of bile duct cancer involves biochemical tests like liver function tests, tumor marker tests, biopsy, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI scan and endoscopic examination.

Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month & Ribbon
Month February
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  • Treating for bile duct cancer can involve surgical removal of a part or all of the bile duct or partial removal of liver. The costs of that surgery could range from $15,000 to $30,000 depending on the techniques used.
  • Liver transplantation is another solution that could cost at least $575,000.
  • Surgical bypass and placement of stents are relatively cheaper techniques to deal with in the case of blocks to the bile ducts.
  • Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also used. Adrucil, Adriamycin, Fluorouracil and Gemcitabine are some of the commonly used chemotherapy drugs. The therapy costs $60,000 for an 8 week session.
  • If treatment fails then it is only pain management until the death of the patient which can cost $2,000 per month.

Side Effects

  • Side effects include nausea and vomiting for chemotherapy and acute to permanent hair loss for radiation and chemotherapy.
  • Surgeries carry the risk of infection especially if the patient is immunocompromised.
  • Transplants can lead to rejection and multiple organ failure.

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