Treatment for bile duct cancer usually aims to control the symptoms for as long as possible. But if it's caught early enough, there's sometimes a chance it could becured.

The main treatments are:

In early stage bile duct cancer, a cure may be possible by removing the affected part of the bile duct and gallbladder, and usually some of the liver or pancreas.

A cure is unlikely to be possible in more advanced cancer, butstenting, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery can help relieve the symptoms.


If it's possible to cure your cancer, surgery to removethe cancerous tissue will be recommended.

Depending on exactly where the cancer is, it may be necessary to remove:

  • the part of your bile duct that contains cancerous cells
  • your gallbladder
  • nearby lymph glands
  • partof your liver
  • part of your pancreas

Surgery may be carried out through a single large incision (cut) in your tummy, or occasionallyby using special surgical instruments inserted through smaller incisions (called "keyhole" or Laparoscopy ).

It's possible to live a normal life after surgery. You can live without a gallbladder, and surgeons can oftenreconstruct bile ducts. Your liver should still work even if part of it was removed.

Overall,around one or two in every fivepeople who have surgery for bile duct cancer live at least five years or more after their operation.

Unblocking the bile duct

If your bile duct becomes blocked as a result of cancer, treatment to unblock it may be recommended.

This will helpreduce symptoms such as:

  • yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes ( jaundice )
  • itchy skin
  • abdominal (tummy) pain

The bile duct can be unblocked using a small hollow tube called a stent, which widensthe bile duct andkeeps it open.

Thestent can be inserted using either a long, flexible tube ( endoscope ) passed down your throat, or by making a small incision in your skin.

Occasionally, a stent can become blocked. If this occurs, it will need to be removed and replaced.


Chemotherapy is used to relieve the symptoms of bile duct cancer, slow down the rate it spreads and prolong life.

It's used when the cancer is unsuitable for surgery but you're in good enough general health to have chemotherapy.

It's usually given through a drip into a vein in your arm.

Side effects of chemotherapy can include:

  • tiredness
  • feeling and being sick
  • hair loss
  • a higher chanceof picking up infections

The side effects should pass once the course of treatment has finished.

You can also ask your care team about any ongoing trials you may be able to participate in.

and find clinical trials for bile duct cancer .

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 5 Oct 2016