Bile Duct and Gallbladder Cancer Care You Can Count On

These types of cancer are relatively rare and occur mostly in people over the age of 70. They affect the gallbladder and bile ducts. The gallbladder is located just beneath the liver, and is responsible for storing and concentrating bile to digest fats. During digestion, it releases bile into the small intestine. Bile ducts are located in the liver and form a main bile duct—the common hepatic duct—outside of the liver that transports bile to the small intestine. The gallbladder is connected to the common hepatic duct via the cystic duct. The common bile duct refers to the combined duct.

There are two main types of gallbladder and bile duct cancer:

  • Adenocarcinomas: These originate in the mucus glands that line the gallbladder and bile ducts. This includes papillary adenocarcinomas, which typically have a better outlook than other types as they are less likely to spread.
  • Cholangiocarcinomas: These are bile duct tumors that occur in the main bile duct located outside (extrahepatic) or inside (intrahepatic) the liver.

Diagnosing Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancers

After undergoing a physical exam and questioning from your doctor, any of the following tests can be used to diagnose gallbladder and bile duct cancer:

  • Ultrasound
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Cholangiography
  • Laparoscopic cholecystectomy
  • Biopsy
  • Liver function blood tests
  • Tumor marker blood tests

Upon diagnosis, bile duct cancers are generally classified into two groups:

  • Resectable cancers. Generally, these can be removed completely by surgery.
  • Unresectable cancers. These cancers have spread too far or are in too difficult a place to be removed entirely by surgery.

Gallbladder Bile Duct Cancer Treatment Options

Gallbladder cancer is typically treated via surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or palliative care. For bile duct cancer, surgery is the primary treatment option because it offers the only realistic chance for a cure. Radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and palliative care can also be used to treat bile duct cancer.

As a leading NJ cancer hospital network, we also offer information on clinical trials. These offer our patients connections to alternatives in treating bile duct and gallbladder cancers.

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