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Biliary Cancer


  • The bile duct -- a tube connecting the liver and the gallbladder to the small intestine -- carries a fluid made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder known as bile.  It is used to break down fats during the process of digestion.  After gallstones, cancer is the most common cause of bile duct obstruction.

  • When cancer blocks the drainage of bile, a bile pigment known as Bilirubin accumulates in the blood, causing yellowing of the skin (jaundice) and the whites of the eyes (icterus), and itching of the skin (pruritus).  Since Bilirubin cannot be excreted via its normal route, some is excreted in the urine, giving it a coca cola-colored appearance.  Without bile in the intestine, stools become clay-colored.  Other symptoms include pain in the right upper portion of the abdomen that may radiate to the back, weight loss, and poor appetite.  Bile duct tumors that obstruct the pancreatic duct may additionally lead to Inflammation of the Pancreas(pancreatitis).

  • Blood test may show elevated liver function and Bilirubin levels.
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Percutaneous trans-hepatic cholangiogram (PTCA)
  • Abdominal Ultrasound
  • Abdominal CAT scans alone, or used to do a biopsy of the ducts

  • Ulcerative Colitis and chronic irritation of the bile duct or bile cysts have all been associated with an increase in the risk of bile duct cancer.

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

  • Common bile duct stones
  • Gallstones
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Pancreatitis


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