What is Cholangiocarcinoma or Bile Duct Cancer?

Cholangiocarcinoma or bile duct cancer originates from a bile duct. The bile ducts are draining the bile from the liver and carry it to the small intestine. That’s where the bile helps to digest the fats in foods.

There are 3 different types of bile duct cancer.
– Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma: this type occurs in the parts of the bile ducts within the liver.
– Distal cholangiocarcinoma develops in the portion of the bile duct nearest the small intestine
– Hilar cholangiocarcinoma occurs in the bile ducts just outside the liver.

What causes Cholangiocarcinoma?

It’s not clear what causes most cases of bile duct cancer. But there are some factors that increase the risk.
– People with long-term swelling or irritation in the bile ducts are more likely to get this cancer
– People with ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease, are also at higher risk
Bile duct cancer develops when cells in the bile ducts develop mutations in their DNA. Changes in the DNA cause changes in the instructions. One result is that cells may begin to grow out of control and eventually form a tumor.

Make an appointment

To make an appointment or to request more information, talk to our consultants at The Liver Centre WA: (08) 6163 2800

Symptoms of Bile Duct Cancer

The first sign is often jaundice. This is when the skin and whites of the eyes are yellowing. The urine may also become dark yellow and bowel movements may become pale. These symptoms occur because the tumour blocks the bile duct. Bile then builds up in the bloodstream and body tissues.

People with bile duct cancer can feel extremely itchy. Stomach upsets, loss of appetite and high temperatures combined with jaundice and weight loss are also symptoms.

If you have one of these symptoms, but haven’t been diagnosed with this cancer, remember that it’s rare, and your symptom is likely to be caused by something else. But book an appointment if any symptom persists.

Treatment of Bile Duct Cancer

Surgical removal of the bile duct: If the tumor has not spread beyond the bile duct, the recommended treatment may involve removing the bile ducts surgically.

Partial hepatectomy: If the cancer is near the liver, the surgeon will remove part of the liver. The remaining section of the liver takes over the functions of the entire liver and can regrow to its normal size within a few weeks.
Whipple procedure: If the cancer is near the pancreas, this type of surgery may be recommended. The surgeon removes part or all of the pancreas and part of the small intestine, bile duct, and stomach. The surgeon then reconnects the digestive tract and biliary system. To maintain the flow of bile, the remaining part of the bile duct is connected to the small intestine.
Stent placement and surgical bypass: If surgery cannot completely remove the tumor, the surgeon may be able to bypass the blocked area by connecting a part of the bile duct located before the blockage with a part of the small intestine located beyond the blockage. During this procedure, the surgeon may insert a plastic or metal tube, called a stent, into the bile duct to keep it open.
Radiation therapy: Radiation usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period of time. Radiation therapy can be used for treatment or to control the symptoms and pain of advanced disease.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor or when surgery is not an option.

Make an Appointment



  • (08) 6163 2800

We’re located at
McCourt Street Medical Centre
1st Floor, Suite 10, 2 McCourt Street
West Leederville WA 6007

We also operate from
Northam Hospital Health Service
Outpatients Clinic, Robinson Street
Northam WA 6401

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There are many online resources. We have collected some useful links for you.

Cholangiacarcinoma on Wikipedia
Cirrhosis on Wikipedia
Cirrhosis animation on YouTube