Bile Duct Cancer

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Bile duct cancer forms in a bile duct, which is a tube that carries bile (fluid made by the liver that helps digest fat) between the liver and gallbladder and the intestine. Bile ducts include the common hepatic, cystic and common bile ducts. Bile duct cancer may be found inside the liver (intrahepatic) or outside the liver (extrahepatic).


Having colitis or certain liver diseases can increase the risk of extrahepatic bile duct cancer.


Factors that increase your chance of bile duct cancer include:

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


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


The following tests and procedures may be performed:

  • 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


Three types of standard treatment are used:

  • Surgery
    • Removal of the bile duct
    • Partial hepatectomy
    • Whipple procedure
    • Surgical biliary bypass
    • Stent placement
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy



Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.