Bile duct cancer

Also referred to as cholangiocarcinoma. Bile duct cancer is rare but aggressive, accounting for 10-15% of all primary liver cancers.

Enquiries & Appointments

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What is bile duct cancer?

Bile helps to break down and digest fat. It's made in the liver, stored in the gallbladder and carried around the body by bile ducts. Though rare, bile duct cancer can be aggressive. It accounts for 10-15% of all primary liver cancers and affects both men and women. At HCA Healthcare UK, we offer a variety of treatment options.

Need to know

Usually, the signs of bile duct cancer won't show until its later stages, when the cancer grows large enough to cause a blockage. These symptoms might include:

  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • pale-coloured faeces
  • darker urine
  • itchy skin
  • feeling tired and unwell
  • abdominal pain and swelling
  • fever, chills and shivering

These symptoms might be a sign of other conditions, so it's important to see a consultant who can diagnose your symptoms.

Your HCA UK GP or consultant oncologist will discuss your symptoms with you. They may also recommend certain diagnostic tests.

  • Various blood tests to rule out other conditions.
  • An abdominal ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create images of your bile ducts, pancreas and liver from the outside.
  • An endoscopic ultrasound scan, which uses sound waves to create images of your bile ducts, pancreas and liver from the inside.
  • A detailed X-ray, where a special dye will be inserted into your bile duct to make them show up more clearly.
  • A biopsy, which involves removing a small sample of bile duct tissue and testing it for signs of cancer.

Your treatment options will depend on the position, stage and size of the bile duct cancer. Another important factor is if the cancer has spread beyond the bile duct. In some cases, the aim of treatment is to relieve your symptoms rather than provide a cure.

  • surgery to remove the affected area (only in certain cases and if the cancer hasn't spread)
  • removing the cancerous bile ducts (normally for early-stage cancers)
  • Whipple's procedure (surgery to remove the bile ducts and parts of surrounding organs; for larger cancers)
  • surgery to remove the bile duct blockage (if the cancer is too big to remove)
  • chemotherapy (to kill remaining cancer cells)

Our Bile duct cancer locations

The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
University College Hospital Private Care

University College Hospital Private Care

Grafton Way Building, 1 Grafton Way WC1E 6AG London
The Princess Grace Hospital

The Princess Grace Hospital

42-52 Nottingham Place W1U 5NY London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London
Private Care at Guy's

Private Care at Guy's

London Bridge Hospital Private Care at Guy's SE1 9RT London
The Shard Outpatients

The Shard Outpatients

The Shard, 32 St Thomas Street SE1 9BS London

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.