Bile Duct (Cholangiocarcinoma) Cancer

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After Treatment TOPICS

What happens after treatment for bile duct cancer?

For some people with bile duct cancer, treatment may remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about cancer coming back. (When cancer comes back after treatment, it is called recurrence.) This is a very common concern in people who have had cancer.

It may take a while before your fears lessen. But it may help to know that many cancer survivors have learned to live with this uncertainty and are leading full lives. Our document, Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence, gives more detailed information on this.

For other people, the cancer may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy (chemo), radiation therapy, or other therapies to try to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty. Our document, When Cancer Doesn’t Go Away, talks more about this.

Follow-up care

When treatment ends, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It is very important to go to all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask questions about any problems you may have. They will examine you and may check lab tests or x-rays and scans to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects. Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to months, but others can last the rest of your life. This is the time for you to talk to your cancer care team about any changes or problems you notice and any questions or concerns you have.

There are no well-proven follow-up schedules for bile duct cancer. Doctors may recommend blood and/or imaging tests about every 6 months for at least the first couple of years after treatment.

If cancer does recur, further treatment will depend on the location of the cancer, what treatments you've had before, and your health. For more information on how recurrent cancer is treated, see the section "Treatment of bile duct cancer, by situation." For more general information on dealing with a recurrence, you may also want to see our document, When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence.

It is important to keep health insurance. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this could happen.

Seeing a new doctor

At some point after your cancer diagnosis and treatment, you may find yourself seeing a new doctor who does not know anything about your medical history. It is important that you be able to give your new doctor the details of your diagnosis and treatment. Gathering these details soon after treatment may be easier than trying to get them at some point in the future. Make sure you have this information handy:

  • A copy of your pathology report(s) from any biopsies or surgeries
  • If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report(s)
  • Copies of x-rays and other imaging tests (these can often be put on a CD or DVD)
  • If you were hospitalized, a copy of the discharge summary that doctors prepare when patients are sent home
  • If you had radiation therapy, a copy of the treatment summary
  • If you had chemo or some other drug therapy, a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them

The doctor may want copies of this information for his records, but always keep copies for yourself.


Last Medical Review: 10/30/2013
Last Revised: 10/30/2013