Bile duct cancer occurs when cancerous cells form in the bile ducts. The prognosis for bile duct cancer is typically unfavorable because many people receive a diagnosis in the later stages of the disease. However, a person’s prognosis depends on several factors, including their body’s response to treatment.
Cancer of the bile ducts, also known as cholangiocarcinoma, is rare. According to the American Cancer Society, around
There are two types of bile duct cancer: intrahepatic bile duct cancer and extrahepatic bile duct cancer. Intrahepatic bile duct cancer forms in the bile ducts inside the liver. Extrahepatic bile duct cancer forms in the bile ducts outside the liver.
Bile duct cancer can occur at any age. However, it is more likely to develop in older people, with the average age of diagnosis being around
The prognosis, also called the outlook, for people with bile duct cancer depends on its location and how advanced it is.
In this article, we examine the outlook of bile duct cancer. We look at factors that may affect outlook, outlook according to cancer stage, and FAQs relating to the disease.
Many factors affect survival rates among people with bile duct cancer. A person’s outlook can depend on factors such as:
- where the cancer is growing
- whether they can have surgery to remove it
- their general health and fitness
- how their body responds to treatment
- newer treatment options
The outlook for bile duct cancer also depends on whether a tumor has remained localized or has spread to other locations.
The outlook for bile duct cancer is typically unfavorable. This is because the disease is
- Localized: There is no spread of cancer outside the bile ducts.
- Regional: Cancer has spread from the bile ducts to nearby structures or lymph nodes.
- Distant: Cancer has spread to distant body parts, such as the lungs.
These groupings differ from the American Joint Committee on Cancer tumor, node, and metastasis stages that
Relative survival rates
A relative survival rate compares individuals with the same type and stage of cancer with people in the general population. For example, the 5-year relative survival rate for localized intrahepatic bile cancer is
Below are the survival rates for each type and stage of bile duct cancer. Experts based these rates on individuals with a bile duct cancer diagnosis between
The 5-year relative survival rates for intrahepatic bile duct cancer are as follows:
- localized: 24%
- regional: 9%
- distant: 2%
- all stages combined: 9%
The 5-year relative survival rates for extrahepatic bile duct cancer are as follows:
- localized: 17%
- regional: 16%
- distant: 2%
- all stages combined: 10%
It is important to note that these figures do not take all factors into account. Experts group survival rates based on the spread of cancer. However, other factors, such as a person’s age and their body’s response to treatment, can affect outlook.
People may also have a better outlook than the data suggest. Researchers are continually developing and testing newer, more effective treatments that may not have been available when SEER collected the survival rate data.
Experts base survival rates on the outcomes of many people with a specific cancer. However, they cannot predict an individual’s disease course. Healthcare professionals determine each person’s outlook based on individual circumstances.
Bile duct cancer is an aggressive cancer that can develop, grow, and spread quickly. Certain factors or conditions
- bile duct stones
- primary sclerosing cholangitis, a type of chronic liver disease
- choledochal cyst disease, a congenital anomaly of the bile duct that may cause obstruction
- liver fluke infections, a type of parasitic infection in the liver
- hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus
- polycystic liver disease
- Caroli syndrome, a genetic condition that can cause bile ducts in the liver to widen
- inflammatory bowel disease
- having obesity
- non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease
- family history of bile duct cancer
- alcohol consumption
Below are some common questions and answers on bile duct cancer:
What happens in the final stage of bile duct cancer?
Final stage bile duct cancer, also called stage 4,
Symptoms of advanced bile duct cancer vary depending on where the cancer has spread to in the body. They may include:
- yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- nausea or vomiting
- abdominal pain
- unexplained weight loss
- mood changes
When cancer spreads too far to remove with surgery, healthcare professionals
Generally, palliative care helps manage symptoms. It does not cure cancer.
Is cancer in the bile duct curable?
Doctors can treat and
Doctors generally divide bile duct cancer into resectable and unresectable cancers. Resectable cancers are those that doctors can remove with surgery, and unresectable cancers are those that doctors cannot entirely remove with surgery. Unresectable cancers have typically spread too far or may be difficult to access with surgery.
When doctors diagnose bile duct cancer, the condition has typically reached an unresectable state.
Can chemotherapy help?
Some people may benefit from chemotherapy. However,
Bile duct cancer is rare and aggressive. Although the disease typically has an unfavorable outlook, an individual’s outlook depends on various factors, such as age, overall health, and their body’s response to treatment.
The 5-year relative survival rates range between
In the early stages of bile duct cancer, doctors can sometimes remove all of the cancer with surgery. However, if the cancer spreads, it becomes more complex to treat.
Most people receive a bile duct diagnosis in the later stages of the disease. In this case, healthcare professionals may offer them palliative care to alleviate their symptoms.
Experts continue to develop new cancer treatments, so the outlook for people with bile duct cancer may change as newer treatments become available.