Resectable Versus Unresectable Bile Duct Cancers

The TNM staging system provides a detailed summary of how far the cancer has spread and gives doctors an idea about a person’s prognosis (outlook). But for treatment purposes, doctors often use a simpler system based on whether or not the cancer can likely be removed (resected) with surgery:

  • Resectable cancers are those that doctors believe can be removed completely by surgery.
  • Unresectable cancers have spread too far or are in too difficult a place to be removed entirely by surgery.

In general terms, most stage 0, I, and II cancers and possibly some stage III cancers are resectable, while most stage III and IV tumors are unresectable. But this also depends on other factors, such as the size and location of the cancer and whether a person is healthy enough for surgery.

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

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