PDQ® Treatment Patients
PDQ is a computer system that gives up-to-date information on cancer and its prevention, detection, treatment, and supportive care. It is a service of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for people with cancer and their families and for doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals.
To ensure that it remains current, the information in PDQ is reviewed and updated each month by experts in the fields of cancer treatment, prevention, screening, and supportive care. PDQ also provides information about research on new treatments (clinical trials), doctors who treat cancer, and hospitals with cancer programs. The treatment information in this summary is based on information in the PDQ summary for health professionals on this cancer.
PDQ can be used to learn more about current treatment of different kinds of cancer. You may find it helpful to discuss this information with your doctor, who knows you and has the facts about your disease. PDQ can also provide the names of additional health care professionals who specialize in treating patients with cancer.
Before you start treatment, you also may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. PDQ can be used to learn more about these trials. A clinical trial is a research study that attempts to improve current treatments or finds information on new treatments for patients with cancer. Clinical trials are based on past studies and information discovered in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help patients with cancer. Information is collected about new treatments, their risks, and how well they do or do not work. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the treatment currently used as "standard" treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Listings of current clinical trials are available on PDQ. Many cancer doctors who take part in clinical trials are listed in PDQ.
To learn more about cancer and how it is treated, or to learn more about clinical trials for your kind of cancer, call the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service. The number is 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615. The call is free and a trained information specialist will be available to answer cancer-related questions.
PDQ is updated whenever there is new information. Check with the Cancer Information Service to be sure that you have the most up-to-date information.
Extrahepatic bile duct cancer, a rare cancer, is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the tissues of the extrahepatic bile duct. The bile duct is a tube that connects the liver and the gallbladder to the small intestine. The part of the bile duct that is outside the liver is called the extrahepatic bile duct. A fluid called bile, which is made by the liver and breaks down fats during digestion, is stored in the gallbladder. When food is being broken down in the intestines, bile is released from the gallbladder through the bile duct to the first part of the small intestine.
A doctor should be seen if there are any of the following symptoms: yellowing of the skin (jaundice), pain in the abdomen, fever, or itching.
If there are symptoms, a doctor will perform an examination and order tests to see if there is cancer. A patient may have an ultrasound, a test that uses sound waves to find tumors. A patient may also have a CT (computed tomographic) scan, which is a special type of x-ray that uses a computer to make a picture of the inside of the abdomen. Another special scan called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses magnetic waves to make a picture of the inside of the abdomen, may be done as well.
A doctor may perform a test called an ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography). During this test, a flexible tube is put down the throat, through the stomach, and into the small intestine. The doctor can see through the tube and inject dye into the drainage tube (duct) of the pancreas so that the area can be seen more clearly on an x-ray.
PTC (percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography) is another test that can help find cancer of the extrahepatic bile duct. During this test, a thin needle is put into the liver through the right side of the patient. Dye is injected through the needle into the bile duct in the liver so that blockages can be seen on x-rays.
If tissue that is not normal is found, the doctor may remove a small amount of fluid or tissue from the bile duct and look at it under the microscope to see if there are any cancer cells. This procedure is called a biopsy and is usually done during the PTC or ERCP.
Because it is sometimes hard to tell whether a patient has cancer or another disease, surgery may be needed to see if there is cancer of the bile duct. If this is the case, the doctor will cut into the abdomen and look at the bile duct and the tissues around it for cancer. If there is cancer and if it looks like it has not spread to other tissues, the doctor may remove the cancer or relieve blockages caused by the tumor.
The chance of recovery (prognosis) and choice of treatment depends on the location of the cancer in the bile duct, the stage of the cancer (whether it is only in the bile duct or has spread to other places), and the patient's general health.
Once extrahepatic bile duct cancer is found (diagnosed), more tests will be done to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. This is called staging. To plan treatment, a doctor needs to know the stage of the cancer. The following stages are used for extrahepatic bile duct cancer:
The cancer is only in the area where it began and can be removed in an operation.
All of the cancer cannot be removed in an operation. The cancer may have spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes or to other parts of the body. (Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures that are found throughout the body. They produce and store infection-fighting cells.)
Recurrent disease means that the cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been treated. It may come back in the bile duct or in another part of the body.
There are treatments for all patients with extrahepatic bile duct cancer. Two kinds of treatment are used:
If the cancer has spread and it cannot be removed, the doctor may do surgery to relieve symptoms. If the cancer is blocking the small intestine and bile builds up in the gallbladder, the doctor may do surgery to go around (bypass) all or part of the small intestine. During this operation, the doctor will cut the gallbladder or bile duct and sew it to the small intestine. This is called biliary bypass. Surgery or x-ray procedures may also be done to put in a tube (catheter) to drain bile that has built up in the area. During these procedures, the doctor may make the catheter drain through a tube to the outside of the body or the catheter may go around the blocked area and drain the bile to the small intestine. In addition, if the cancer is blocking the flow of food from the stomach, the stomach may be sewn directly to the small intestine so the patient can continue to eat normally.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external- beam radiation therapy) or from putting materials that produce radiation (radioisotopes) through thin plastic tubes into the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy).
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by inserting a needle into a vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells outside the bile duct.
Biological therapy tries to get the body to fight cancer. It uses materials made by the body or made in a laboratory to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against disease. Biological therapy is sometimes called biological response modifier (BRM) therapy or immunotherapy. This treatment is currently only being given in clinical trials.
Treatment depends on the stage of the disease, and the patient's age and overall health.
Standard treatment may be considered because of its effectiveness in patients in past studies, or participation in a clinical trial may be considered. Not all patients are cured with standard therapy and some standard treatments may have more side effects than are desired. For these reasons, clinical trials are designed to find better ways to treat cancer patients and are based on the most up-to-date information. Clinical trials are ongoing in some parts of the country for patients with extrahepatic bile duct cancer. To learn more about clinical trials, call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615.
Treatment may be one of the following:
2. Surgery to remove the cancer followed by external-beam radiation therapy.
Treatment may be one of the following:
2. Surgery or other procedures to bypass blockage in the bile duct followed by external-beam radiation therapy or internal radiation therapy.
3. Clinical trials of radiation therapy with drugs to make the cancer cells more sensitive to radiation (radiosensitizers).
4. Clinical trials of chemotherapy or biological therapy.
Treatment depends on many factors, including where the cancer came back and what treatment the patient received before. Clinical trials are testing new treatments.
TO LEARN MORE..... CALL 1-800-4-CANCER
To learn more about extrahepatic bile duct cancer, call the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615. By dialing this toll-free number, trained information specialists can answer your questions.
The Cancer Information Service also has booklets about cancer that are available to the public and can be sent on request. The following general booklets on questions related to cancer may be helpful:
For more information from the National Cancer Institute, please write to this address: