Bile Duct Cancer (Cholangiocarcinoma) - Diagnosis & Treatment

How is bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) diagnosed?

To diagnose cholangiocarcinoma, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your overall health, family history, lifestyle and symptoms.

To confirm the diagnosis, some tests may be recommended, which include:

  • Abdominal ultrasound, computerised tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) to look for tumours inside your abdomen
  • Biopsy to extract a sample of bile duct cells which are checked for cancer cells
  • Blood tests to check your liver function and bilirubin levels, or to look for tumour markers
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), in which a dye is injected into the bile duct, to create a clearer X-ray result
  • Endoscopy to view the inside of the lower intestine
  • Laparoscopy to view the bile duct, gallbladder, liver and surrounding tissues

How is bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) treated?

Treatment for bile duct cancer will depend on whether the cancer can be completely removed with surgery (resectable) or not (unresectable). Your overall health and type or location of the tumour may also influence your treatment options, which may include both surgical and non-surgical treatments.

Surgical options include:

Other surgical procedures include those that drain blocked bile ducts, such as:

  • Biliary bypass to create a path around blocked bile ducts to relieve the build-up of bile in the liver
  • Endoscopic stent to clear blocked bile ducts, allowing bile to drain into the small intestine or into a bag
  • Percutaneous transhepatic biliary drainage in which dye is injected into the liver or bile ducts to create a clearer X-ray image and check for blockage

Non-surgical options include:

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