Bile Duct Cancer Treatment

bile duct

Cancer that develops in the small, thin tubes that connects the liver to the small intestine, and are responsible for delivering a fluid called bile to aid in the digestion of food, is called bile duct cancer.

It is a relatively rare form of cancer affecting up to an estimated 3,000 people in the United States each year. Additionally, bile duct cancer is rarely seen in young people as the majority of people who are diagnosed with it are usually over the age of 65.

There are three different types of caner of the bile ducts:

Intrahepatic, which develop in the small bile ducts inside the liver; perihilar (hilar), the most common type that form in the area where the bile ducts are just leaving the liver; and distal, which are found closer to the small intestine.

Like other cancers, treatment depends on the location and size of the tumor, but typically includes one or more of the following:

Surgery for bile duct cancer falls into one of two categories. First, there is surgery for tumors that can be removed (resectable), which usually consists of removing of a portion of the liver. Depending on the location of the tumor part or all of other nearby organs such as the gallbladder, lymph nodes, pancreas and small intestine also may be removed. Secondly, there is surgery for tumors that cannot be removed (unresectable), which is typically in the form of a total liver transplant.
Radiation Therapy
The use of high energy rays to kill cancer cells, radiation therapy may be given before or after surgery for resectable cancers or as the main therapy for those bile duct cancers that can not be removed surgically and have spread to other nearby organs. Radiation therapy also can be used as a palliative therapy to help reduce pain associated with advanced bile duct cancers.
Used in combination with radiation therapy, chemotherapy may be given after surgery to try to kill any remaining cancer cells. Other times, it may be given before surgery to try to reduce the size of the tumor. Chemotherapy also may be given to treat bile duct cancers that have spread to other areas of the body, but it is not clear if this use is truly effective. Common chemotherapies used to treat bile duct cancer include 5-fluorouracil, capecitabine, cisplatin, doxorubicin, mitomycin C and oxaliplatin.

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