About the disease
Cancer of the bile duct originates in the bile ducts themselves. They are the thin tubes that connect the liver to the small intestines. These tubes are responsible for transporting bile from the liver to the small intestines, therefore helping a person to digest food better. The main role of bile is to break down fats, which we consume in our food.
There are three different types of bile cancer, depending on where the cancer starts to grow. Since the bile ducts connect the liver and small intestines, cancer can originate close
ly to these organs and, if not treated, metastize there in future. Usually, cancer of the bile is accompanied by bile duct obstruction. A blockage here can be quite dangerous and can damage the liver.
Cancer of the bile duct can be caused by stones in the bile, liver infections, smoking, genetic predisposition, cirrhosis, hepatitis B and C. This cancer usually develops in people older than 60.
According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for localized cancer of the bile approximates 15% for intrahepatic cancer, which originates close to or inside the liver and 30% for extrahepatic cancer, which originates outside the liver. For localized cancer, the survival rate is 6% and 24% respectively and for cancers that have developed elsewhere [is there a better medical term for this? Regional/distant sound like countrywide] the survival rate is only 2% for both types of bile cancer because it has reached other organs. These statistics apply only for patients who did not undergo surgery in time. For those who had survey, the survival rate can reach 25-50%.
- Pain in the upper area of the abdomen
- Dark urine
- Weight loss
It is difficult to diagnose cancer of the bile duct in its early stages, as it rarely manifests itself.
- Blood tests can show an increased level of liver enzymes, which can be caused by bile obstruction - the first indicator of cancer of the bile duct.
- Cholangiography is a special X-Ray of bile ducts that can show abnormalities in their structure.
- Imaging tests, such as MRI and ultrasonography, are the most reliable diagnostic measures because they show precise images of the bile ducts.
- An Endoscopy can also be performed. A special tube equipped with a camera can be fed into a small incision in the body, in order to inspect the bile ducts at close range.
- Endoscopic bougienage and stent implantation is a procedure where a surgeon widens the bile duct with a special cylinder and places a stent inside to keep it open and retain its function.
- Chemotherapy is used to kill cancerous cells with special agents.
- Partial hepatectomy is a partial resection of the liver. This procedure is used to prevent cancer of the bile duct from spreading further. It can be performed if this type of cancer originated in the liver.
- Surgical reconstruction of the bile ducts involves extensive dissection of the bile duct, after which a surgeon connects the small intestine to the liver and then makes a loop. This type of surgery is extremely complicated to perform and can be done only by a professional in the field of bile duct surgeries. A surgeon may also resect a small part of the liver, in order to make the right connection.
Overall, these procedures can considerably prolong your life expectancy and help you lead a normal life.