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Bile Duct Cancer: Symptoms And Treatments

31 August, 2020 Ankita Singh

Bile Ducts

Bile ducts are a series of thin tubes that connect the liver to the small intestine. Their function is to transport bile from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine. Bile helps in digesting fats. These ducts originate from the liver as many tiny tubes called ductules, these ducts merge to form small ducts which further merge into larger ducts, and then they finally merge into left and right hepatic ducts (at hilum). All these ducts are called intrahepatic bile ducts.

The left and right hepatic ducts exit the liver and join to form a common hepatic duct. Further, the common hepatic duct is joined to the gallbladder by cystic duct forming the common bile duct. This common bile duct passes through the pancreas, joins the pancreas duct, and opens into the initial part (duodenum) of the small intestine.

Bile Duct Cancer

Bile duct cancer also called cholangiocarcinoma arises from cells lining the bile ducts. Bile duct cancers are quite rare and are commonly found just outside the liver in the peripheral area and least within the liver. Order anti-cancer medicines in Delhi from 3MEDS.

Based on the position of cancer, there are three types of bile duct cancer.

Intrahepatic bile duct cancer: It starts in the smaller bile duct branches within the liver.

Peripheral (or hilar) bile duct cancer: It starts at the hilum where the left and right hepatic ducts just leave the liver.

Distal bile duct cancer: It starts in the part of the bile duct that is closer to the small intestine.

Symptoms of Bile Duct Cancer

Bile duct cancer may not cause any symptoms until it has grown and spread from its original location to other parts.

Jaundice: Tumour blocks the bile duct due to which the liver is unable to excrete bile forcing the bile back into the bloodstream causing jaundice.

Abdominal pain: Abdominal pain is one of the late symptoms. The pain is often located in the right upper part of the abdomen and can be associated with a tender and enlarged liver.

Itching: Itching is caused by a build-up of bile salts and bilirubin in the body. 3MEDS, the best online pharmacy in Delhi.

Other symptoms of bile duct cancer are:

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

Treatment for Bile Duct Cancer

The treatment plan for bile duct cancer will depend on different factors:

1. Location of cancer

2. Extent of cancer

3. Whether the cancer is removable by surgery

4. Possible side-effects of the treatment

5. The overall health of the patient

6. The chances of curing the cancer

7. The chances of extending life and relieving symptoms

You will need the following types of doctors to treat bile duct cancer:

Surgical oncologist: Surgeon who is specialized in cancer treatment.

Radiation oncologist: Doctor who is specialized in radiation therapy for cancer.

Medical oncologist: Doctor who specializes in chemotherapy for treating cancer.

Gastroenterologist: Doctor who treats diseases of the digestive system.

Hepatologist: Doctor who treats disease of the liver and bile duct.

Types of Treatment for Bile Duct Cancer:

Surgery: If the cancer is resectable then the surgery method is used to remove the cancer tumor and some surrounding tissues. However, if the cancer is not resectable then the tumor is first shrunk with the help of radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.

Liver transplant: For unresectable intrahepatic or peripheral bile duct cancer a liver transplant may be an option. This is a difficult procedure to go through and often chosen as the last call.

Chemotherapy: Medicines are used to stop the growth of the cancer cells and eventually killing them. Order medicines from 3MEDS for home delivery of cancer medicines in Delhi.

Radiation therapy: High energy radiations are used to kill the cancer cells and some tissues surrounding them.

Ablation: Extreme heat (radiofrequency ablation) or extreme cold (cryotherapy) can be used to control bile duct cancer within the liver. This treatment is followed by other treatments as these cancer starts to grow again after ablation.

NOTE: Patients may choose to be a part of a clinical trial to help in finding a better cure for cancer.


Bile duct cancer is very rare with about 1 lakh cases every year in India. It requires medical diagnosis as the symptoms can often be confused with other diseases. It is difficult to diagnose the disease at an early stage due to lack of symptoms and the later the disease is diagnosed the more difficult it is to treat.