Several diagnosis and treatment options are available for bile duct cancer management. These options help in the overall management of bile duct cancer. The choice of bile duct cancer treatment depends upon several factors, such as stage of diagnosis, health of the patient, age, underlying medical condition, and response to treatment.
Following are some of the methods for bile duct cancer diagnosis:
The patients suspected of having bile duct cancer undergo a
detailed examination of their overall health and medical history. The patients are
asked about the symptoms, their onset, and their severity.
The medical history of the patients is also evaluated to detect underlying medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, obesity, cirrhosis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis. The doctor may also ask about the family history of the patients, as some cases of bile duct cancer may also be hereditary. If the doctor strongly suspects cancer or other serious conditions, the patients are advised to undergo further tests.
Liver function tests provide detailed information about the overall status of liver health. The tests include the evaluation of various enzymes and other chemicals, such as bilirubin, synthesized by the liver. Patients with bile duct cancer have high levels of bilirubin in the blood. High levels of bilirubin may also be due to several reasons other than cancer.
Liver function tests are one of the laboratory tests for detecting liver status. Other laboratory tests can also be performed to examine the overall health status. These may include blood sugar tests, cholesterol levels, and a complete blood count. The patients may also undergo tumor marker tests to detect the level of CEA and CA 19-9 that may be elevated in patients with cancer. However, these markers may also be elevated in conditions other than cancer.
Ultrasound imaging techniques are used to detect bile duct cancer. It uses ultrasound waves to obtain images. It is usually the first imaging test advised in case the patient experiences symptoms of bile duct cancer, such as abdominal pain or jaundice.
A CT scan may also be recommended for bile duct cancer diagnosis. A CT scan provides important information about the presence of cancer and its spread to the surrounding tissues and lymph nodes. It also assists in the staging of the disease. A CT scan is also used in several techniques for diagnosing bile duct cancer, such as CT angiography and CT-guided biopsy.
It uses magnetic fields and radio waves to provide images of the bile duct and nearby organs for diagnosing bile duct cancer. The technique is also helpful in differentiating benign or non-cancer bile duct tumors from malignant tumors. The doctors may inject a contrast agent, such as gadolinium, to obtain clearer images.
MRCP is also a cholangiocarcinoma diagnostic test that provides detailed images of the bile duct with the assistance of the standard MRI technique. The technique does not involve using a contrast agent or an endoscope, unlike other cholangiograms. If images of the bile ducts are needed, the doctors prefer this technique due to its non-invasive characteristics.
Angiography is often recommended for bile duct cancer diagnosis. It involves the use of a catheter for evaluating the blood vessels present in and around the bile ducts and the liver. During this procedure, a contrast dye is administered with the help of an IV line. The MRI is then taken to detect the presence of any blockage in the blood vessels.
A biopsy is a procedure for diagnosing bile duct cancer and is usually considered a confirmatory test for diagnosis. This procedure involves taking tissue samples and examining them for the presence of cancer cells.
Laparoscopic surgery is performed with the assistance of a laparoscope. The technique is used to determine the presence of tumors in the bile duct and to obtain samples of the abnormal tissue for analysis in the laboratory.
This procedure is performed under the influence of sedative drugs. The doctor may also use local anesthesia to minimize the pain and discomfort. During this procedure, a needle is guided into the bile duct through the abdominal wall to inject the contrast dye. The patient then undergoes an X-ray examination to trace the contrast. Samples of abnormal tissues may also be obtained during PTC.
During this procedure, the doctor guides an endoscope into the initial section of the small intestine. A small catheter from the endoscope is inserted into the common bile duct, through which a contrast dye is injected. The X-ray images are taken to detect the blockage in the bile duct and the pancreatic duct. A tissue sample may also be obtained during ERCP.
It involves the use of an endoscope and ultrasound device to obtain images. A needle is also attached to the endoscope to obtain the tissue samples.
Bile duct cancer treatment often demands a multidisciplinary approach wherein specialists from various disciplines thoroughly study the case before devising an individualized treatment plan. The different bile duct cancer treatment options recommended as part of the treatment plans include:
Bile duct cancer surgery is the treatment of choice in cases where the tumor is resectable and the condition is diagnosed at an earlier stage. Bile duct tumor resection surgery is complex and should be performed by an experienced surgeon. Some of the surgical options available for bile duct cancer treatment include:
This procedure is performed to treat intrahepatic bile duct cancer. During this procedure, the doctor removes the bile duct and some parts of the liver. In some cases, it involves the removal of a complete liver lobe (hepatic lobectomy).
If the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage and is limited only to the bile duct, the patient may undergo surgery to remove the bile duct.
If the patients are diagnosed with distal bile duct cancer, they may undergo Whipple’s procedure. During this procedure, the doctor may remove the affected section of the bile duct along with some parts of the pancreas and small intestine.
It is important to remove the obstruction of the bile duct for a smooth flow of bile into the small intestine. It helps manage symptoms caused by elevated levels of bilirubin. Bile duct obstruction can be managed by placing a stent with the assistance of an endoscope.
If there is a complete blockage of the bile duct and the bile accumulates in the gallbladder, the surgeon may create a route that bypasses the blocked section of the biliary duct and delivers the bile into the intestine.
It is a technique for placing the stent to keep the biliary duct open. This procedure involves using contrast dye and X-ray imaging to detect the blocked section of the bile duct.
Radiation therapy involves guiding high-energy radiation beams onto the tumor cells to kill them. Radiation therapy, apart from treatment, may also be used as a part of palliative therapy. Following are the radiation therapies for bile duct cancer treatment:
Internal radiation therapy involves placing radiation sources, such as seeds, needles, or wires, inside or close to the tumor to kill cancer cells.
During external radiation therapy, high-energy radiation is delivered from a radiation source (a linear accelerator) placed outside the body.
During this technique, body tissue is exposed to high temperatures to make the cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy.
These drugs make the cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy and increase the efficacy of the therapy.
It involves the use of various cytotoxic and cytostatic drugs to manage bile duct cancer. It may be used along with surgery or radiation therapy as a part of bile duct cancer treatment.
Systemic chemotherapy involves the administration of the drug orally or through injection. Systemic therapy is used to kill cancer cells throughout the body.
This treatment strategy comprises the delivery of the drugs directly into the affected bile duct.
A liver transplant is the treatment in cases where the cancer is diagnosed in advanced stages and is not resectable. During this procedure, a healthy donor's liver replaces the diseased liver.
Immunotherapy is a form of systemic therapy wherein the patient’s immune system is re-engineered to identify and attack cancer cells. Immune checkpoint inhibitors, namely durvalumab and pembrolizumab, are administered as part of immunotherapy for bile duct cancer. These drugs work by binding to the immune checkpoints, which are protein molecules that block the immune system from attacking cancer cells. This reactivates the immune system to launch an attack against cancer cells.
Targeted therapy for bile duct cancer works by targeting specific cellular pathways and protein molecules on the cancer cells that allow them to divide, grow, and spread. Drugs administered as a part of targeted therapy block the growth of cancer cells or kill them.
HCG offers comprehensive diagnostic and treatment facilities for patients with bile duct cancer. The center has advanced diagnostic facilities, including laboratory testing and imaging. Medical oncologists and surgeons are extensively experienced in managing complex bile duct cancer cases. The center has world-class surgery facilities to ensure improved outcomes.
Bile duct cancer diagnosis techniques include medical examination, imaging, liver function tests, laboratory tests, and a biopsy. The bile duct cancer treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. For bile duct cancers to be diagnosed and treated effectively, patients should be mindful of the various symptoms associated with the disease, undergo regular health checkups, and see a doctor if worrying symptoms are observed.