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Cholangiocarcinoma

Bile duct cancer

Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is a rare cancerous (malignant) growth in one of the ducts that carries bile from the liver to the small intestine.

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Digestive system
Bile pathway

Causes

The exact cause of CCA isn't known. However, many of these tumors are already quite advanced by the time they are found.

CCA may start anywhere along the bile ducts. These tumors block off the bile ducts.

Both men and women are affected. Most people are older than 65.

People with the following health problems may have a higher chance of developing CCA:

Symptoms

Symptoms of CCA may include any of the following:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam. Tests will be done to check for a tumor or blockage in the bile duct. These may include:

Blood tests that may be done include:

Treatment

The goal is to treat the cancer and the blockage it causes. When possible, surgery to remove the tumor is the treatment of choice and may result in a cure. Often the cancer has already spread locally or to another area of the body by the time it is diagnosed. As a result, surgery to cure the cancer is not possible.

Chemotherapy or radiation may be given after surgery to decrease the risk of the cancer returning.

In select cases, a liver transplant can be tried.

Endoscopic therapy with stent placement can temporarily relieve blockages in the biliary ducts. This may also relieve jaundice when the tumor cannot be removed.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Completely removing the tumor allows some people to survive with the possibility of complete cure.

If the tumor cannot be completely removed, a cure is generally not possible. With treatment, about one half of affected people live a year, and about one half live longer, but rarely beyond 5 years.

Hospice is often a good resource for people with CCA that cannot be cured.

Possible Complications

Complications of CCA include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have jaundice or other symptoms of cholangiocarcinoma.

Related Information

Tumor
Bile
Chronic
Cyst
Metastasis

References

National Cancer Institute website. Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) treatment (PDQ) -- health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/liver/hp/bile-duct-treatment-pdq. Updated September 23, 2020. Accessed November 9, 2020.

Rajkomar K, Koea JB. Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. In: Jarnagin WR, ed. Blumgart's Surgery of the Liver, Biliary Tract and Pancreas. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 50.

Rizvi SH, Gores GJ. Tumors of the bile ducts, gallbladder, and ampulla. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 69.

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Review Date: 5/27/2020  

Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 11/09/2020.

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