Biliary Cancer

Biliary Cancer


When the slender bile ducts are infected with cancerous cells it is known as cholangiocarcinoma which generally occurs in the age group of above 50. The type of cancer depends on where it is located. Biliary Cancer is identified as Intraphetic Cholangiocarcinoma if it the bile ducts within the liver are affected; Hilar Cholangiocarcinoma if the bile ducts just outside the liver are affected and Distal Cholangiocarcinoma if the cancer is found in the bile ducts near the small intestine. Biliary Cancer is a rare type of cancer.

Signs and symptoms

If there is persistent tiredness, dullness in the eyes, yellowish eyes, pale or whitish stool colour, uncontrollable itchy skin and abdominal pain, then it is better to consult the doctor for further diagnosis.

Causes and risk factors

Though not very clear, studies have shown that the changes in the DNA of the bile duct cells cause the growth of cancerous cells resulting in tumour formation. The predominant risk factors associated with Biliary Cancer are when the person has Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) - an inflammatory condition of the bile duct, by birth abnormalities like - Choledochal cyst, Caroli syndrome, Cirrhosis and in some cases the presence of a parasite called liver flukes, old age and excessive exposure to chemicals like nitrosamines, dioxins, etc.


In Biliary Cancer the blockage of bile duct leads to further complications like cirrhosis, where the functioning of liver cells gets affected irreversibly and sclerosing cholangitis where the bile ducts become narrow and infected, obstructing the flow of the fluid.


Biliary Cancer is diagnosed through liver function tests, tumour markers in which the level of Cancer antigen in the blood is checked; ERCP, imaging tests such as CT scan, Computerised Tomography, MRI, MRCP - Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography which is a non-invasive imaging procedure, and biopsies.


Being a rare form of cancer that mainly affects the aged, surgery is challenging. Treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, photodynamic therapy where the tumours are shrunk to control symptoms and radioembolization where radioactive materials are injected in measured portions to shrink the tumours.


There are no specific preventive methods that can be adopted but avoiding habits that could lead to liver inflammation or liver cirrhosis may help prevent the onset of Biliary cancer.

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