About bile duct cancer
Digestion is a complex process that works with the proper functioning of multiple organs and systems. It involves your entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract, liver, pancreas and bile ducts. The liver is responsible for producing a fluid called bile that aids digestion. Bile is stored in the gallbladder.
The transport of bile from the liver to the gallbladder is done by a series of thin tubes known as bile ducts. Bile ducts also connect the liver to the small intestine and ensure the travel of bile juice for proper digestion.
Bile duct cancer is a rare yet serious type of cancer that develops in these thin tubes (bile ducts). Bile duct cancer is known as cholangiocarcinoma. Depending on the exact location where cancer develops, bile duct cancer is further divided into three types:
- Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma
- Hilar cholangiocarcinoma
- Distal cholangiocarcinoma
Bile duct cancer symptoms
The signs and symptoms of bile duct cancer depend on the site at which the cancer is developing. There are various symptoms that present differently in everyone. Some common bile duct symptoms include:
- Persistent itching on the skin
- White coloured stools
- Pain in the abdomen on the right side, below the ribs
- Unintended weight loss
- Sweating in the night
- Dark coloured urine
Bile duct cancer causes
Primarily, bile duct cancer is caused when the healthy cells in the series of thin tubes of bile ducts begin to divide and multiply at an abnormal speed. This division and abrupt multiplication of healthy cells occur as a result of uncertain DNA changes. This process leads to the formation of a healthy mass of growth known as a tumour.
Bile duct cancer can occur in any individual irrespective of age and gender. Some individuals, however, are at a greater risk of developing bile duct cancer than others.
Common risk factors include:
- Having chronic liver disease
- A liver parasite
- Congenital bile duct problems
- Hardening and scarring of the bile ducts
- Advanced age
- Genetic conditions
Diagnosing bile duct cancer
Bile duct symptoms are not very obvious in the early stages of cancer. Due to this, mostly, this disease is diagnosed at a much later stage.
Your doctor may do a range of tests based on your symptoms and your risk of bile duct cancer. Common tests and procedures that are done to diagnose bile duct cancer include:
- Liver function test
- Tumour marker test
- CT scan
- Bile duct biopsy
Bile duct cancer treatment
The treatment and management of bile duct cancer are based on a range of factors. Your age, overall health, the severity of symptoms, stage and location of cancer, and medical history play an important role in devising the treatment protocol for bile duct cancer.
Common treatment measures used for bile duct cancer are:
- Surgery to remove the tumour
- Targeted drug therapy
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Biliary drainage
Bile duct cancer is a rare type of cancer. It can, however, be serious and affect a person’s health critically. You can treat and survive bile duct cancer effectively. It is important to detect cancer at its early stages for improved prognosis.
Bile duct cancer occurs in a series of thin tubes known as the bile duct. These ducts are responsible for connecting your liver to your gallbladder and small intestine. The bile duct occurs due to DNA changes in the cells leading to the growth of a tumour.
No, bile ducts play an important role in connecting the gallbladder and the small intestine and ensuring the adequate transport of bile fluid for proper digestion.