Can Bile Duct Cancer Be Found Early?

Only a small number of bile duct cancers are found before they have spread too far to be removed by surgery.

The bile ducts are deep inside the body, so early tumors can’t be seen or felt during routine physical exams. There are no blood tests or other tests that can reliably detect bile duct cancers early enough to be useful as screening tests. (Screening is testing for cancer in people without any symptoms.) Because of this, most bile duct cancers are found only after the cancer has grown enough to cause signs or symptoms. The most common symptom is jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes, which is caused by a blocked bile duct.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: November 1, 2014 Last Revised: January 20, 2016

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