The bile duct has a critical function of moving the bile from the liver (where it is produced) and from the gallbladder (where it is stored), eventually emptying the bile into the duodenum (first part of your small intestine). Bile helps in the digestion of fats from the food that you eat.
The bile ducts start from the liver as tiny tubes called ductules. These ductules join together to form small ducts and, in turn, they merge into larger ducts and form the right and left hepatic ducts. These two ducts exit from the liver and join together as the common hepatic duct. Lower down, it unites with the cystic duct that comes from the gallbladder and is called the common bile duct. Then, the common bile duct traverses a part of the pancreas and joins the pancreatic duct. It empties into the duodenum, the first part of the intestines.
Cancer, just like anywhere in the body, can develop in any part of the bile ducts. They are classified into 2 types:
Bile duct cancers are also categorized by the cell types.
Worldwide, bile duct cancers are rare. However, they are common in South East Asia because of a parasitic infestation by a liver fluke.
Generally, conditions causing inflammation of the liver and the bile ducts increase your risk of developing bile duct cancer.
These conditions include:
Other risk factors include:
Like most cancers, signs and symptoms of Cholangiocarcinoma or bile duct cancer occur later in the course of the disease. However, if symptoms occur earlier, it may result in early diagnosis, better treatment, and better outcomes.
Most signs and symptoms occur due to the blockage of the bile duct. These symptoms include:
The following methods are used for diagnosing the bile duct cancer:
Other tests may be done to take a direct look at the bile duct including:
By using the aforementioned techniques, your doctor makes a diagnosis and stages bile duct cancer. From the staging, the treatment options can be planned. Usually, treatment consists of surgery if the cancer is operable but surgery can also be palliative. Additionally, radiation and chemotherapy may be utilized as part of the treatment.
If you’re experiencing, unusual symptoms that you suspect are attributable to the bile duct or have recently been diagnosed with bile duct problems, seek an early consultation with a hepatobiliary surgeon who can advise you!
Senior Consultant Surgeon
MBBS (Singapore), FRCS (Edinburgh), MMed (Surgery), MSc (Bioinformatics),
FAMS (General Surgery)
With 20 years of surgical experience, Dr Lee is trained and skilled in using minimally invasive techniques for liver, pancreas, gallbladder and hernia procedures.
His busy practice aside, Dr Lee is actively involved in postgraduate teaching and workshops for junior surgeons, and is still actively involved in academic research at the National University of Singapore.
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