Survival Rates for Bile Duct Cancer

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person’s prognosis (outlook). Some people may want to know the survival statistics for people in similar situations, while others might not find the numbers helpful, or might even not want to know them.  

When discussing cancer survival statistics, doctors often use a number called the 5-year survival rate. The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Of course, some of these people live much longer than 5 years.

Five-year relative survival rates, such as the numbers below, assume that some people will die of other causes and compare the observed survival with that expected for people without the cancer. This is a better way to see the impact of the cancer on survival.

To get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment since then may result in a better outlook for people now being diagnosed with bile duct cancer.

There are some important points to note about the survival rates below:

These statistics come from the National Cancer Institute’s SEER program and are based on people diagnosed with bile duct cancer in the years 2000 to 2006. SEER does not separate these cancers by AJCC stage, but instead puts them into 3 groups: localized, regional, and distant. Localized is like AJCC stage I. Regional includes stages II and III. Distant means the same as stage IV.

SEER also does not separate perihilar bile duct cancers from distal bile duct cancers. Instead, these are grouped together as extrahepatic bile duct cancers.

Intrahepatic bile duct cancer

Stage

5-year relative survival

Localized

15%

Regional

6%

Distant

2%

Extrahepatic bile duct cancer

Stage

5-year relative survival

Localized

30%

Regional

24%

Distant

2%

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen with any particular person. Many other factors can also affect a person’s outlook, such as their age and overall health, and how well the cancer responds to treatment. Even when taking these other factors into account, survival rates are at best rough estimates. Your doctor can tell you how the numbers above apply to you, as he or she knows your situation best.

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.

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Last Medical Review: July 3, 2018 Last Revised: July 3, 2018

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