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Bile Duct Cancer

Bile is a substance your liver makes to help digest fat. Your bile ducts carry it from your liver to your gallbladder and then, when you need it for digestion, to your small intestine. Bile duct cancer is rare, but the experienced doctors at Rush have expertise in treating it.

Bile duct cancer: what you should know

  • Bile duct cancer can develop in bile ducts that are located inside (intrahepatic) or outside (extrahepatic) your liver — or in both.
  • While bile duct cancer is uncommon, people with the following conditions are at higher risk:
    • Ulcerative colitis
    • Sclerosing cholangitis (bile duct scarring, swelling or other damage)
    • Cysts in the bile duct
  • There are no screening tests for bile duct cancer. If you have any of the risk factors listed above — or any of the symptoms listed below — you should talk to your doctor about them.

How can I get help for bile duct cancer?

These are some possible symptoms of bile duct cancer:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes)
  • Itchy skin
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite

Most of the time, having these symptoms does not mean you have bile duct cancer. Other conditions have similar symptoms. See a doctor if you have any of these symptoms and it does not go away.

If you are diagnosed with bile duct cancer, your doctor will likely refer to you a specialist in liver and gastrointestinal cancers who can determine the next best steps for confirm the diagnosis and treatment.

Care for bile duct cancer at Rush

The kind of treatment you need will depend on the type and stage of your cancer, as well as your overall health and any other conditions you may have. Doctors at Rush work with patients — and with each other — to determine the best course of treatment, and they welcome patients seeking second opinions.

If you are diagnosed with bile duct cancer, your care at Rush will likely involve one or more of the following:

  • Surgery: Surgeons at Rush perform a variety of procedures to remove bile duct cancer, including liver surgery for patients whose cancer involves the liver. 
  • Chemotherapy: Rush offers the latest cancer-fighting drugs.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation oncologists at Rush use advanced technologies that treat the cancer while protecting surrounding tissue.
  • Complementary therapies: Rush offers acupuncture, massage and other options to help you cope with pain, loss of energy and other challenges related to bile duct cancer.

Why choose Rush for bile duct cancer care

  • U.S. News & World Report ranks Rush among the best hospitals in the country for cancer care.
  • Many patients at Rush receive care at the Rush University Cancer Center’s Coleman Foundation Comprehensive Clinic for Gastrointestinal Cancers. At the clinic, specialists combine their expertise to consider all the options and create a treatment plan tailored to the patient’s needs.
  • The team at Rush includes a dedicated gastrointestinal pathologist, who provides specialized diagnostic knowledge for a precise diagnosis.
  • The Rush University Cancer Center is a hub of cancer research. Doctors and researchers at Rush are enrolling patients in trials of drugs and other treatments that might not be widely available.
  • The Rush University Cancer Center has been awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. Rush has received this award, which is given every three years, each time it has been evaluated by the Commission on Cancer.

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