Due to the location of these tumours, patients tend to develop symptoms at advanced stages and the tumours can be difficult to resect. However, this may differ from case to case, as some patients may have jaundice in the early stages, which may compel them to seek early medical help.
Ideally, complete resection of the Klatskin tumor (whenever feasible) should be performed, as this is associated with better long-term survival. For certain patients, liver transplant can be an option for treatment in specialised centres. Overall, the prognosis of Klatskin tumours is poor, but new surgical and endoscopic treatments allow better disease control.
Generally, Klatskin tumours are rare. However, it is observed that Asians are more prone to develop these tumours, especially males and elderly patients above the age group of 50 years. Also, Klatskin tumours comprise about 25% of cholangiocarcinomas. The remaining cholangiocarcinomas can occur in the liver or the distal bile duct.
The Klatskin tumour staging can be determined by using a well-known staging system, Bismuth-Corlette system.
The Bismuth-Corlette system classifies Klatskin tumours into 4 main categories based on the location of these tumours. These include:
Radiographic tests are required to diagnosis and assess Klatskin tumours. Ideally, histological or tissue confirmation by endoscopic, radiologically-guided biopsy or surgical biopsy can be performed. However, often times, histological confirmation may not always be feasible.
Do consult a hepatobiliary surgeon once diagnosed with Klatskin’s tumour. About 30-40% of such tumours are potentially resectable, and patients with successfully resected tumours have better overall survival.
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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