How is bile duct cancer treated?

Stethoscope

The best treatment for you will depend on:

  • Where the cancer is 
  • How big the cancer is
  • If it has spread to other parts of your body
  • Your general health

Surgery, chemotherapy, clinical trials and occasionally radiotherapy can all used to treat bile duct cancer.

Surgery

Whether or not you have surgery to remove the cancer will depend on the stage of the cancer.  You may be referred for this surgery to specialist hepatobiliary surgical centre such as St. Vincent’s University Hospital or Cork University Hospital.

If your cancer is causing a blockage, your doctor might put a stent in during an ERCP or PTC. A stent is a thin mesh wire tube that will keep the duct open and prevent blockages.

For more information, you can talk to one of our cancer nurses. Call our Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700 or call into a Daffodil Centre. 

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a treatment using drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy for bile duct cancer may be given for patients who can’t have surgery or for advanced bile duct cancer.

You may have a single drug or a combination of different chemotherapy drugs. For example, cisplatin, gemcitabine. Some drugs are injected into a vein (intravenous) and others are given in tablet form.

Your doctor or nurse will discuss your treatment with you. Read more about chemotherapy and its side-effects. You can also read our booklet: Understanding chemotherapy and other cancer drugs

Understanding Chemotherapy and other cancer drugs booklet
Understanding Chemotherapy and other cancer drugs booklet
This booklet is for cancer patients to help them understand more about chemotherapy, targeted therapies and immunotherapies.

Radiotherapy 

Radiotherapy is a treatment that uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. 

Radiotherapy for bile duct cancer is not commonly used but it may be given:

  • After surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells
  • With chemotherapy to make the treatment work better (chemoradiation)
  • To relieve symptoms if the cancer is advanced or has come back. For example, pain, discomfort, bleeding or blockage. This is called palliative radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy for bile duct cancer can cause side-effects like sickness, constipation or diarrhoea and skin irritation in the area, as well as general side-effects like tiredness.

Will I get side-effects?

The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. 
Your doctor or nurse will discuss any possible side-effects with you before your treatment. You can read about the different treatments to find out more about possible side-effects.

Treating metastatic cancer

Metastatic bile duct cancer means the cancer has spread beyond the bile duct to other parts of the body.

If you have metastatic cancer, your doctor will aim to slow down the growth of the cancer and reduce or relieve any symptoms you have. Treatment includes surgery to relieve symptoms , chemotherapy, clinical trials and radiotherapy.

For more information

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1800 200 700

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