Bile duct cancer

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct, we can provide the information you need, from understanding the cancer itself, to choosing the right treatment, to finding support.

Cancer of the bile duct can also be called bile duct cancer.

What you should know about bile duct cancer

  • The cause of bile duct cancer is unknown. Your chance of developing it increases if you are born with abnormal bile ducts; develop an inflammatory bowel disease or a parasite infection.
  • The main symptom of bile duct cancer is jaundice. This is a colouring of your skin, urine, stool and whites of your eyes. Other symptoms include itchy skin, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Bile duct cancer can be diagnosed by tests such as ERCP, PTC and EUS scans, or surgery such as a laparotomy.
  • Treatment for bile duct cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

What is the bile duct?

  • 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. It is carried by your bile ducts to your small bowel, where it helps to break down fat during digestion. Your gallbladder and bile ducts are known as the biliary system.

Diagram of the bile duct

What is bile duct cancer?

When cancer develops in your bile ducts, the cells change and grow in an abnormal way. As the cancer grows, it forms a collection of cells know as a tumour. This tumour can cause a blockage and cause symptoms like jaundice.

How common is bile duct cancer?

Cancer of the bile duct is a very rare type of cancer.

Cancer publications

For booklets and factsheets, including information about cancer types, treatments, side-effects, emotional effects, financial information and more. Visit our publications section.