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Bile duct cancer

Bile duct cancer affects about 140 people in Ireland each year. The risk of bile duct cancer increases with age. Most bile duct cancers occur over the age of 65.

Bile duct cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

What is bile duct cancer?

When cancer develops in your bile duct, the cells change and grow in an abnormal way. As the cancer grows it forms a collection of cells (tumour). This tumour can cause a blockage and cause symptoms, such as jaundice (when your skin turns yellow).

Bile duct cancer is also known as bilary tract carcinoma or cholangiocarcinoma (“co–langee-oh car-sin-oh-ma”)

Bile duct cancer is a rare cancer. Around 140 people are diagnosed with bile duct cancer in Ireland every year. It usually affects people over the age of 65. 
Most bile duct cancers are a type called adenocarcinoma.

What are the bile ducts and what do they do?

The bile ducts are tubes that connect your liver and gallbladder to your small bowel. They carry fluid called bile. Bile is made by your liver and stored in your gallbladder.

The bile ducts carry bile from the gallbladder to your small bowel, where it helps to break down fat during digestion.


There are different ducts:

  • Hepatic ducts: Bile ducts coming from your liver
  • Cystic duct: Bile duct coming from the gall bladder
  • Pancreatic duct: Bile duct coming from the pancreas

All the different ducts join up and release bile into the small bowel to help digest the food we eat.

More information about bile duct cancer treatment

Treatment for bile duct cancer includes surgery. chemotherapy and radiotherapy. For more information about treatments for bile duct cancer, visit our treatment page. For specific treatment information use the links below.

Coping with bile duct cancer treatment and side-effects

Online Community Support

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Our cancer support section contains information and advice on coping with cancer for diagnosed patients and their loved ones.

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