What is Biliary Cancer?
Also known as bile duct cancer, biliary cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the bile duct system, which carries the digestive fluid called bile. The bile ducts connect the liver to the gallbladder and the small intestine. This cancer occurs when the cells in the bile ducts mutate, growing out of control and forming a tumor.
Signs and symptoms of biliary cancer include:
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).
- Very itchy skin.
- White-colored stools.
- Pain in the abdomen.
- Unintended weight loss.
How is Biliary Cancer Diagnosed?
If your provider is concerned about biliary cancer, he or she may have you undergo some testing, including liver function tests, a tumor marker test, an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), imaging tests such as CT scans or MRI or a biopsy. These tests will help your doctor gather the information he or she needs to properly diagnose your condition, as well as create a unique treatment plan.
Biliary Cancer Treatment Options
The treatment option that is right for you will depend on the location and extent of your biliary cancer, as well as your overall health. Possible treatment options may consist of:
Surgical procedures to remove as much of the cancer as possible can be performed. For more advanced cancer, liver tissue, pancreas tissue or lymph nodes may also be removed.
Chemotherapy uses cancer-destroying drugs to eliminate cancer. This form of treatment may be used in different ways with biliary cancer, including after surgery to lower the risk that cancer will return, before surgery to shrink tumors, as part of a liver transplant to keep bile duct cancer controlled while waiting for a liver transplant or as a standalone treatment.
This treatment uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used after surgery to remove all remaining cancer, before surgery to shrink tumors or as part of the main therapy for advanced cancer that cannot be removed with surgery.
Individuals with a type of biliary cancer called hilar cholangiocarcinoma may benefit from a liver transplant.
With photodynamic therapy, a chemical that is sensitive to light is injected into a vein and accumulates in cancer cells. Laser light is then directed at the cancer, killing the cells. Multiple treatments are usually needed for the best results.
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