Parkview Health Logo

Cholangiocarcinoma (Bile Duct Cancer)

What is cholangiocarcinoma?

Cholangiocarcinoma arises from the tissue in the bile duct which is a 4-5 inch tube that connects the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine.  The bile duct allows bile, which is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder, to flow into the small intestine to break down the fat in our food and help the body get rid of waste material filtered out of the bloodstream by the liver. 

Primary cholangiocarcinoma is a rare disease with approximately 2,500 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. However, the incidence of cholangiocarcinoma is increasing.  The five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with early stage cholangiocarcinoma is about 30 percent, but unfortunately, only about 20 percent are diagnosed at an early stage.

What are the signs and symptoms of cholangiocarcinoma?

  • Chills
  • Clay colored stools
  • Itching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen that may radiate to the back
  • Jaundice: yellowing of the skin and eyes

What are the risk factors for cholangiocarcinoma?

We do not know the exact cause of cholangiocarcinoma, but researchers have identified some risk factors that include:

  • Aging:  2 out of 3 people diagnosed are older than 65
  • Obesity
  • Family history
  • Diabetes
  • Viral hepatitis infection with Hepatitis B and C
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol
  • History of pancreatitis
  • HIV infection
  • Exposure to asbestos, radon, radioactive chemicals, dioxin, nitrosamine

How is cholangiocarcinoma treated?

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Clinical trials
  • Palliative Care