Bile Duct (Cholangiocarcinoma) Cancer

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Treating Bile Duct Cancer TOPICS

How is bile duct cancer treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

Making treatment decisions

After bile duct cancer is found and staged, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. It is important for you to take time and think about your choices. In choosing a treatment plan, there are some factors to consider:

  • The location and extent of the cancer
  • Whether the cancer is resectable (removable by surgery)
  • The likely side effects of treatment
  • Your overall health
  • The chances of curing the disease, extending life, or relieving symptoms

The main types of treatment for bile duct cancer include:

Based on your treatment options, you might have different types of doctors on your cancer care team. These might include:

  • A surgeon or a surgical oncologist: a surgeon who specializes in cancer treatment
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who uses radiation to treat cancer
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who uses chemotherapy and other medicines to treat cancer
  • A gastroenterologist (GI doctor): a doctor who treats diseases of the digestive system
  • A hepatologist: a doctor who treats disease of the liver and bile ducts

Many other specialists might be part of your treatment team as well, including physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals. See Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care for more on this.

It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. You can find some good questions to ask in the section “What should you ask your doctor about bile duct cancer?” If time allows, it is often a good idea to seek a second opinion, particularly for an uncommon cancer like bile duct cancer. A second opinion can provide more information and help you feel more confident about your chosen treatment plan.

The next few sections describe the different types of treatment for bile duct cancer. This is followed by a discussion of the most common treatments for bile duct cancer based on whether it is resectable.

Last Medical Review: 11/01/2014
Last Revised: 11/01/2014