Bile duct cancer is a type of liver cancer, in which malignant (cancerous) tumours grow in the bile ducts. It is also known as cholangiocarcinoma and is rare in the UK, only accounting for approximately 1% of cancers in the UK. The bile ducts are the tubes connecting the liver and gall bladder to the small intestine (small bowel). Bile is a fluid made by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Its main function is to break down fats during their digestion in the small bowel. In people who have had their gall bladder removed, bile flows directly into the small intestine. The bile ducts and gall bladder are known as the biliary system.
The bile ducts transfer bile from the liver and gall bladder to the small intestine. Bile is a greenish-yellow digestive fluid produced by the liver that dissect the fat in the food we eat. Together the gall bladder and bile ducts are called the biliary system. Bile duct cancer is a malignant growth in the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the small intestine. Cancer of the bile duct is rare and is most prevalent in people ages 50 to 70. The tumor sometimes blocks the bile ducts, which can cause jaundice, clay-colored stools, itching, loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, chills or abdominal and back pain.
These tumors usually grow slowly and spread gradually. Hilar or Klatskin tumors are the most common bile duct cancers. These tumors are found where the right and left hepatic bile ducts meet. There is another form of this disease, the intrahepatic bile duct tumor, which does not block the main bile ducts. Bile duct cancer develops in a significant number of patients with diseases of the biliary tree, such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, intraductal gallstones, biliary tree strictures and choledochal cysts. People who have a chronic inflammatory bowel condition, known as ulcerative colitis.
These tumors are also at an increased risk of developing this type of cancer. The type of treatment that you are given will depend on a number of factors, including your general health, the position and size of the cancer in the bile duct. Surgery may be used to remove the cancer if it has not spread beyond the bile duct. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or both are also sometimes used to try to destroy any cancerous cells that remain, and prevent the cancer from returning. PDT uses a combination of laser light of a specific wavelength and a light-sensitive drug to destroy cancer cells.