Bile Duct Cancer


Bile Ducts are the small and thin tubes that are present across Liver and Small Intestine. The major functionality of the bile ducts is to carry the bile fluid from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine. The fluid helps the body to digest the fat in the body. This is considered one of the rarest and critical forms of cancer in the body.

Bile Ducts Location


Image – Location of common and distal bile ducts

What is Bile Duct Cancer?

The Bile Duct cancer is known Adenocarcinoma in the medical world. However, in general, the name of the cancer depends upon the location of the Bile ducts. The bile ducts may be present inside the liver and outside the liver. If the cancer takes place in the bile ducts which are present in the liver, it is called intrahepatic cancer. However, if the cancer takes place in the bile ducts which are present outside the liver, it is called as the Extra Hepatic Cancer. The cancer can be dreadful and painful as well. The Bile duct cancer affects the digestion a lot. Without proper medical guidance, the Bile Duct Cancer can be termed as the Liver Cancer. However, it differs from the Liver Cancer in many ways.

Bile Duct Cancer Symptoms

The symptoms of the Bile Duct Cancer are not so very different from the Liver Problems and other similar disease. It is therefore very important to get the patient checked by the doctor in order to diagnose the dreadful disease called Bile Duct Cancer. The various symptoms in the body arise because the cancer blocks the flow of the bile from the liver to a small intestine.


  •    The bile does not reach the small intestine and hence the stool becomes pale in color.
  •    Also, the bile reaches the blood and other parts of the body and skin become yellowish in color. The whitish portion of the eyes can turn into yellow in color.
  •    Prolonged Jaundice becomes the major symptom of the cancer.
  •    Skin becomes very itchy and irritating.
  •    Digestion becomes very difficult and burning sensation in the belly is a very common symptom. Pain in the abdomen area becomes very frequent in case of Bile Duct Cancer. However the pain can turn unbearable if not treated on time.
  •    Hair Loss is a very common symptom of the disease.
  •    The nails of the patient start turning to yellow and also yellowish sweat can be observed among the patients.
  •    Weight Loss can be another indicator towards the Bile Duct Cancer.

The symptoms may be very similar to those of Jaundice or any other Liver related problems. However, the intensity of the symptoms will be more in case of Bile Duct Cancer. It is very difficult to understand and diagnose the Bile Duct Cancer from the symptoms itself. Hence, if the symptoms are observed then the patient should be rushed to the hospital.

Bile Duct Cancer Causes

The prime characteristic of the Bile Duct Cancer is that it can’t be inherited. Like many other cancer forms, Bile Duct Cancer cannot be transferred in any form. Hence, it is very rare. However, the root cause of the Bile Duct Cancer is still unknown. But, the advancement of the medical science has   identified many risk factors or probable reasons for the Bile Duct Cancer.


The prime cause of the Bile duct cancer can be inflammation or cyst in the bile duct. Ulcerative Colitis, Sclerosing Cholangitis are the common example of the inflammation of the Bile Duct. This can trigger the Bile Duct cancer from the cyst and inflammation.

It has been noticed that many people are born with abnormal bile ducts. They are very susceptible to the Bile Duct cancer. The cysts are found normally in their bile ducts and that can cause the Bile Duct Cancer.


Infection can be a reason for the Bile Duct Cancer as well. A parasite called Liver Fluke is considered as very dangerous for the Bile Duct Cancer. According to the research, it has been found that the majority of the people in Asia and Africa are affected by the Infection and it leads to Bile Duct Cancer.

The growing age can be another cause of the Bile Duct cancer. However, the Bile Duct Cancer is more observed among the young people.

Bile Duct Cancer Treatment

There are many treatments available for the Bile Duct Cancer. If the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage then it can be treated in many ways.

  • The most common and successful treatment for Bile Duct Cancer is the Surgery. The surgery can be done to remove the infected bile ducts from the body. Removal of the partial liver also proves helpful in the earlier stage. The blockage caused by the cancer can be opened by the surgery as well. Stent or an artificial tube can be inserted in the body in place of Bile Ducts after the removal. The Stent can be inserted in two ways ERCP and PTC method. However, the stents need to be replaced every quarter in order to avoid blockage.
  • Radiotherapy is one of the common and recent therapies to treat the Bile Duct cancer. It can destroy the cancerous cell in the body. However, it does not harm the normal cells of the body during the process.
  • Chemotherapy is to apply drugs to destroy the cancerous cells in the body. Chemo radiation can also be applied as a treatment for the Bile Duct Cancer.
  • Photo Dynamic Radiation can also be used for the treatment. It uses the laser light to destroy the cancerous cell in the body.

Bile Duct Cancer Survival Rate

The rate of Survival for the Bile Duct Cancer depends on the severity of the cancer. The Intrahepatic Bile Duct Cancer has lesser chances of survival. 15% of the patients generally survive for 5 years. However, the stats go up to 30% for Extra Hepatic Bile Duct Cancer.

Bile Duct Cancer Prognosis

The Bile Duct Cancer can act very rapid and random. It has been noticed that if the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, then the cancerous cell can be removed. However, it becomes very difficult in case the bile duct has the cancer in the inside the liver. However, in case of Bile Duct Cancer located outside the liver is easy to be treated. Surgery can lead to temporary relief for the Bile Duct Cancer if it is identified early.

Bile Duct Cancer Life Expectancy

Life Expectancy of the Bill Duct Cancer is on average is 3-4 years if not detected early on. However, if diagnosed early on the stage then the patient can survive for even for 8-10 years. But, in case the Bile Duct Cancer is diagnosed very late and at a late stage of life, then the average life expectancy is around 1 year or even 6 months.

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