Cholangiocarcinoma is a rare cancer found in the tissue of the bile ducts, occurring in approximately two out of 100,000 people. Men and women are equally affected and most cases occur in people over age 65. The bile duct is a small tube that connects the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine. The ducts carry bile -- the liquid that helps break down fat in food during digestion — out of the liver.
Tumors can develop anywhere on the bile ducts and are typically slow growing. However, by the time a diagnosis usually is made, many of the tumors are too advanced to be surgically removed. Other conditions such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, bile duct cysts and chronic biliary irritation, are associated with an increased risk of cholangiocarcinoma.
Cholangiocarcinoma is a rare cancer found in the tissue of the bile ducts. Tumors produce symptoms by blocking the bile ducts. Common symptoms may include:
Your doctor will first ask about your medical history and perform a physical examination. In addition, he or she may order the following tests:
Surgery and radiation therapy are the two most common treatments for cholangiocarcinoma.
If the cancer is small and has not spread beyond the bile duct, your doctor may remove the whole bile duct and make a new duct by connecting the duct openings in the liver to the intestine. Lymph nodes also will be removed and examined under the microscope to see if they contain cancer. If the cancer has spread and cannot be removed, your doctor may perform surgery to relieve symptoms.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.