Bile Duct Cancer Treatment

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Bile duct cancer is a rare type of cancer. But we know it well. At UVA Health, you'll find experts who've spent their careers caring for patients with bile duct cancer and looking for better treatments. You won't have just one expert. You'll have the expertise of a whole world-renowned team that specializes in gastrointestinal cancers.

How We Diagnosis & Treat Bile Duct Cancer at UVA Health

Bile duct cancer is also known as cholangiocarcinoma (CCA). It may be found inside the liver (intrahepatic) or outside the liver (extrahepatic). 

At UVA Health, we have the latest tools and expertise to find the exact type of cancer. This helps us tailor treatment.

We may use the following diagnostic tests and procedures:

  • Physical exam and history
  • Ultrasound exam
  • CT scan (CAT scan)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan)
  • ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) 
  • PTC (percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography)
  • Biopsy
  • Liver function tests
  • Tumor marker test

Depending on the stage and genetic profile of your cancer, you may need different types of treatment. This includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.

Our surgeons are experts in surgery to treat bile duct cancer. We may need to remove the bile duct or part of the liver (partial hepatectomy). We sometimes need to do a Whipple procedure

Other procedures include:

  • Surgical biliary bypass
  • Stent placement

Our experts are always looking for better treatments. We do this by offering clinical trials. Learn more about a clinical trial for advanced intrahepatic CCA.

What Causes Cholangiocarcinoma?

This cancer forms in the tube that carries bile (fluid made by the liver that helps digest fat). This tube is between the liver and gallbladder and the intestine.

If you have colitis or certain liver diseases, you're at an increased risk of extrahepatic bile duct cancer.

Any of these can increase your chance of bile duct cancer:

  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Chronic ulcerative colitis
  • Choledochal cysts
  • Infection with a Chinese liver fluke parasite

Look for Symptoms

If you're at risk for bile duct cancer, it's important to tell your doctor about any of these signs. 

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes)
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Fever
  • Itchy skin

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