What Is Bile Duct Cancer (Cholangiocarcinoma)?
Bile duct cancer is cancer in the tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder. Bile is fluid your liver makes and uses to digest fats in the food you eat.
Several different tubes form your liver's bile duct network. This network includes small ducts that join to form the left and right hepatic ducts inside the liver.
These ducts then merge and become the common hepatic duct outside the liver.
The common hepatic duct ends at the cystic duct, where the two ducts merge to form the common bile duct.
Bile duct cancer can occur in any of these tubes.
Bile duct cancer isn't very common. Doctors only diagnose about 8,000 people in the U.S. each year.
Types of bile duct cancer
Bile duct cancer can begin in any of the bile ducts inside or outside the liver.
These cancers have distinct names, based on the cancer's location.
Extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma starts in the bile ducts outside the liver, including the common hepatic duct and the cystic duct.
There are two types of extrahepatic bile duct cancers:
- Perihilar cholangiocarcinoma, or Klatskin tumor. This cancer forms in the hilum, the place where bile ducts merge when leaving the liver. This is the most common type of bile duct cancer.
- Distal cholangiocarcinoma. This cancer forms in bile ducts outside the liver.
Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma is cancer that grows in the bile ducts inside the liver. This type of bile duct cancer is less common than extrahepatic cancers.
Bile duct cancer causes
Cancer occurs when cells grow in ways that aren't normal. Changes in certain genes cause this abnormal growth.
Researchers don't think parents pass these gene changes to their children, but they're still studying this.
Some people with bile duct cancer form mutations in the genes that control how cells divide, causing tumors to grow. Others have oncogenes, or gene changes, that can cause cells to become cancerous.
Bile duct cancer risk factors and complications
You may be at higher risk for bile duct cancer if you have:
- Chronic ulcerative colitis, or ulcers (sores) in the lining of the colon or rectum.
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis, or scarred or inflamed bile ducts.
- Bile duct cysts that cause swelling or infection.
- Hepatitis B or C.
- Cirrhosis of the liver.
- A history of working with certain manufacturing chemicals.
Bile duct cancer can cause liver problems such as cirrhosis and liver failure.
Sometimes, cancer can spread to other parts of the body.
Why choose the Center for Liver Diseases for HCC care?
Our expert liver doctors use the latest, most advanced treatments for bile duct cancer.
And we partner with the UPMC Liver Cancer Center and the Liver Transplant Program to tailor treatment plans to meet your needs.