Bile duct cancer

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Switzerland

Christian Toso
Professor
Christian Toso
Head of Division

Cancer of the bile ducts (cholangiocarcinoma) is relatively rare and can develop in the intra- or extrahepatic bile ducts (in- or outside of the liver). This cancer is mainly an adenocarcinoma . Bile duct cancer usually arises sporadically, but some risk factors have been identified, such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, which is a bile duct inflammation that gradually prevents the flow of bile, bile duct cysts, some parasitic infections, hepatitis C, and certain chemicals. 

Symptoms of bile duct cancer

Cholangiocarcinoma can injure the bile ducts at several levels: in the liver tissue, at the level of their exit from the liver (the most common) or at their junction with the duodenum . The disease can be completely asymptomatic or manifest with jaundice, resulting from obstruction of the bile ducts.

The diagnosis is made by CT scan, MRI, and/or by PET-scan. Endoscopic examination of the bile ducts can also confirm the diagnosis and place a stent to remove the obstruction in the bile ducts. The stent placement is performed by the Gastroenterology Division.

INFO +  Radiological examinations

Treatment of bile duct cancer depends on its stage

Treatment of bile duct cancer is tailored to the stage and location of the tumor. Each cancer case is discussed at a weekly multidisciplinary meeting named tumor board . In some cases, the curative treatment is based on surgical removal, combined with chemotherapy. In cases of advanced tumors, palliative surgical measures and chemotherapy/radiotherapy may be proposed. 

INFO +
Oncology Division
Radiation Oncology Division
Center for Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Disorders

Bile ducts
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Channels through which bile secreted by the liver flows into the small intestine.
Adenocarcinoma
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Common cancerous tumor that develops from cells in a glandular lining or from the gland itself
Duodenum
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The initial segment of the small intestine
Endoscopy
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Method to visualize the internal organs and cavities for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes, carried out using an endoscope, a tube to which the end is attached to a lamp and a camera
INFO + Echo-endoscopy (FR)
Stent
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Tubular medical device inserted into a natural cavity to keep it open
Tumor board
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A meeting between specialists from several disciplines related to cancer, to determine the best possible treatment for each patient. 
INFO +  The Digestive Cancers Program
Last update : 20/07/2021