Pathophysiology The bile ducts are tubes that carry bile. The main function of bile is to break down fats in food to help our digestion. Bile is made by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. The bile ducts connect the liver and gall bladder to the small bowel. If cancer starts in the part of the bile ducts within the liver, it is known as intra-hepatic. If it starts in bile ducts outside the liver, it is known as extra-hepatic.
Early signs and symptoms Cancer in the bile ducts can block the flow of bile from the liver to the intestine. This causes bile to flow back into the blood and body tissues, and the skin and whites of the eyes to become yellow (jaundice). It also causes the urine to become a dark yellow color and stools (bowel motions) to look pale. The skin may become itchy.
Statistics Bile duce cancer is very rare in general population. As per the recent statistics cancer related to bile duct cancer in United States was 5.29%
Diagnosis The general physician will check the blood samples. Scans such as Ultrasound scan, CT (computerised tomography) scan, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan are taken to look for any signs of bile duct cancer. Specialists will also perform endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography in order to identify any abnormality or blockage in the ducts. Finally biopsy is done to make sure that cancer of the bile duct is present.
Treatment The treatment for bile duct cancer depends on the position and size of the cancer, whether it has spread beyond the bile duct. The main treatment for bile duct cancer is surgery to remove the cancer. Other treatments is Radiotherapy, which treats cancer by using high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. While in Chemotherapy, anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs are used to destroy cancer cells. They work by disrupting the growth of cancer cells. Sometimes chemotherapy and radiotherapy are given together, this is called chemoradiation.