Bile Duct Cancer Facts

What Is Bile Duct Cancer?

Bile is a fluid secreted by the liver to help digest food, and bile ducts are the small tubes in and around the liver that carry this fluid to the small intestine. Cancer of the bile ducts occurs when cells in these tubes become abnormal and grow uncontrollably.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Bile Duct Cancer?

Symptoms of bile duct cancer can go unnoticed until the late stages of the disease, but common symptoms are:

  • Jaundice (the yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Itchy skin
  • Lightly colored and/or greasy stool
  • Dark urine
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

What Increases Your Risk Of Bile Duct Cancer?

  • Age: Most cases of bile duct cancer are diagnosed in patients in their 60s and 70s.
  • Liver and inflammatory bowel diseases: Conditions such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, bile duct stones, choledochal cysts, liver fluke infections, cirrhosis and Hepatitis B and C can all inflame the bile ducts and increase risk. This is also true for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, both of which are characterized by chronic swelling of the digestive tract.
  • Ethnicity: In the United States, cancer of the bile ducts is more common in Native Americans and Hispanic-Americans.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese can heighten your risk of bile duct cancer.
  • Genetics: While a family history of bile duct cancer may increase risk, it remain a rare disease with most cases being found in people with no family history at all.
  • Alcohol consumption: People who consume alcohol, particularly those who have liver disease due to drinking alcohol, are more likely to get bile duct cancer.

Sources: American Cancer Society and  National Cancer Institute