Join the discussion about health care issues in our nation and community on our blog, WakeMed Voices.

Manage Your Health

Share/Save/Bookmark
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+)

Manage Your Health

Back to Health Library   Print This Page Print    Email to a Friend Email

Cholangiocarcinoma

Definition

Cholangiocarcinoma is a cancerous (malignant) growth in one of the ducts that carries bile from the liver to the small intestine.

Alternative Names

Bile duct cancer

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Cancerous tumors of the bile ducts are usually slow-growing and do not spread (metastasize) quickly. However, many of these tumors are already advanced by the time they are found.

A cholangiocarcinoma may start anywhere along the bile ducts. These tumors block off the bile ducts.

They affect both men and women. Most patients are older than 65.

Risks for this condition include:

Cholangiocarcinoma is rare. It occurs in approximately 2 out of 100,000 people.

Symptoms

Signs and tests

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam. Tests will be done to check for a tumor or blockage in the bile duct. These may include:

Blood tests that may be done include:

Treatment

The goal is to treat the cancer and the blockage it causes. When possible, surgery to remove the tumor is the treatment of choice and may result in a cure. If the tumor is large, the entire liver may need to be removed and a liver transplant will be needed. However, often the cancer has already spread by the time it is diagnosed.

Chemotherapy or radiation may be given after surgery to decrease the risk of the cancer returning. However, the benefit of this treatment is not certain.

Endoscopic therapy with stent placement can temporarily relieve blockages in the biliary ducts and relieve jaundice in patients when the tumor cannot be removed. Laser therapy combined with light-activated chemotherapy medications is another treatment option for those with blockages of the bile duct.

Support Groups

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group with members who share common experiences and problems (see cancer - support group).

Hospice is often a good resource for patients with cholangiocarcinoma that cannot be cured.

Expectations (prognosis)

Completely removing the tumor allows 30 - 40% of patients to survive for at least 5 years, with the possibility of a complete cure.

If the tumor cannot be completely removed, a cure is generally not possible. With treatment, about half of these patients live a year, and about half live longer.

Complications

  • Infection
  • Liver failure
  • Spread (metastasis) of tumor to other organs

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have jaundice or other symptoms of cholangiocarcinoma.

References

Lewis RL. Liver and biliary tract tumors. In Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 206.


Review Date: 6/2/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com
 
© WakeMed Health & Hospitals, Raleigh, NC  |  919.350.8000  |