Patients with bile duct cancer experience various symptoms. These bile duct cancer symptoms may be similar to those of various other less serious conditions. It is important to consult the doctor if one starts experiencing any signs and symptoms of bile duct cancer. Having liver and gallbladder diseases is considered to be one of the possible bile duct cancer causes.
Anyone can get bile duct cancer, irrespective of age, gender, and geographical location. However, some population groups are at a relatively higher risk of developing this cancer type compared to other groups. Bile duct cancer mainly occurs in people over the age of 60.
Patients suffering from several underlying medical conditions, such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, bile duct stones, liver fluke infections, and hepatitis B and C infections, also have a high risk of developing bile duct cancer. People who consume alcohol excessively and have a family history of bile duct cancer are also more likely to be diagnosed with bile duct cancer.
Bile duct cancer presents with multiple symptoms. It is important to see a doctor when one experiences persistent symptoms that do not go away even with medications. The following are the commonly observed bile duct cancer symptoms:
It is one of the most common signs of bile duct cancer. When there is an obstruction in the bile flow due to a bile duct tumor, the bile flows back into the tissues and the bloodstream, resulting in yellowing of the skin and eyes.
When the bile accumulates in the skin tissues, the level of bilirubin increases. High bilirubin levels in the skin tissues result in itching. Removing obstruction in the bile ducts may help manage itching. Some patients have itching from the substances secreted by the cancer cells. Cancer-induced itching can be managed by treating cancer.
Unexplained weight loss may be an early sign of bile duct cancer. There are several reasons for a patient to have unintentional weight loss during bile duct cancer. First, patients with bile duct cancer have a low appetite, leading to reduced calorie intake. Further, the absence or reduced level of bile in the small intestine (because of bile duct obstruction) may interfere with fat absorption.
Loss of appetite may also be a cholangiocarcinoma cancer symptom. It may occur both before and after the diagnosis. Before the diagnosis, patients do not feel hungry due to interference with liver-assisted metabolism and inadequate fat absorption. This interference may lead to difficulty in the absorption of various nutrients. After the cancer diagnosis, poor psychological health plays a role in losing appetite.
Patients with bile duct cancer have high levels of bilirubin, accompanied by fever. Bile duct obstruction due to bile duct cancer may result in infection, leading to fever.
Abdominal pain may also be one of the bile duct cancer symptoms. Patients usually experience pain in the right lower quadrant, below the ribs. Abdominal pain usually occurs in the advanced stage of bile duct cancer when the cancer spreads to surrounding tissues. Several other conditions, such as gallstones, may also cause abdominal pain.
Patients with bile cancer also have alterations in the texture and appearance of their stools. Patients with bile duct cancer have clay-colored or white stools. The stools of such patients are oily due to poor digestion and absorption of fat. The color change is due to the absence of bile in the stools.
There are several reasons for fatigue to present as a symptom of bile duct cancer. Patients experience extensive tiredness during their cancer treatment or when the cancer progresses to an advanced stage. Loss of appetite is one of the reasons for fatigue and weakness. Further, as cancer cells are rapidly growing, they require significant energy, which causes fatigue and weakness in patients. Patients with advanced cancer experience more fatigue as compared to early-stage cancer patients.
Dark urine is also one of the bile duct cancer symptoms. When the bile duct is obstructed, the bile flows back and accumulates in tissues. The excess bilirubin is then excreted in the urine, resulting in dark-colored urine.
Night sweats may be a symptom of bile duct cancer or be due to the treatment of bile duct cancer. Night sweats may suggest that the body is fighting against cancer or infection.
The exact cause of bile duct cancer is yet to be identified. However, certain factors that can increase the risk of bile duct cancer have been identified. These factors may be referred to as risk factors or possible causes. The following are the possible bile duct cancer causes:
Chronic diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes, and obesity, could be the possible bile duct cancer causes.
Patients with hepatitis C and B virus infections are more likely to develop bile duct cancer. This is because untreated hepatitis infections may result in the development of cirrhosis, which is also a cause of bile duct cancer
Chronic liver and bile duct inflammation is one of the most common bile duct cancer causes. Several liver and bile duct diseases may result in chronic inflammation. These include primary sclerosing cholangitis, choledochal cyst disease, bile duct stones, liver fluke infections, and cirrhosis.
The presence of gallstones could also be a potential bile duct cancer cause. It may be due to chronic irritation and inflammation of the bile ducts.
There are several mechanisms through which obesity causes bile duct cancer. First, obesity alters the level of certain hormones, leading to bile duct cancer. Second, obesity also causes various other diseases, such as gallstones, bile duct stones, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The most common bile duct cancer symptoms include jaundice, itching, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, fever, abdominal pain, white-colored stools, and dark urine. Possible bile duct cancer causes include liver disease, chronic inflammation, obesity, gallstones, and infection.