Bile Duct Cancer – Ask Grace

All cancers are caused at baseline level by inflammation in various organs and linings of the body.

Bile duct cancer – also called Cholangiocarcinoma is also known to have an inflammatory cause. People who have chronic (long-term) inflammation of the bile ducts have an increased risk of developing bile duct cancer.

liver_cholangiocarcinomaWhat is gallbladder cancer?

Gallbladder cancers occur when malignant cells form in the gall bladder. These cells can spread to other organs and tissues (metastasis). The majority of gallbladder cancers (9 out of 10) are adenocarcinomas (named for the type of cell the cancer affects), with subtypes such as papillary, nodular, and tubular, depending on the appearance of the tumour cells under the microscope. Less common subtypes include: squamous cell, signet ring cell, and adeno-squamous carcinoma.

The earlier you seek help with this type of cancer – the greater likelihood there is for a better outcome. A thorough history must be taken and personalised advice and guidance given.

Some of the known precursors are: Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a condition in which inflammation of the bile ducts leading to the formation of scar tissue (sclerosis). Sometimes the cause of the inflammation is not known. Many people with this disease also have inflammation of the large intestine called ulcerative colitis.

Other known causes are: Bile duct stones, viruses such as Hep C and Hep B, Cysts in the bile duct, genetic influences and Liver fluke infections (which can be an issue for those who have frequently travelled in Asia and eaten local delicacies), Cirrhosis of liver, asbestos exposure in some people and radiation exposure.

Cigarette smoking and some environmental toxins have also been implicated as causes of bile duct cancer.

Functional pathology testing for liver fluke is essential I can also assist you with organising this test. Email me via the contact page.


Typically, patients present with problems resulting from blockage of the bile ducts, such as jaundice, loss of appetite and weight loss. Some patients may have had troublesome gall stones for many years as a source of chronic inflammation of the Gall bladder.


As with many tumour types, management is often a multidisciplinary approach involving a variety of treatments.


Total surgical removal of all known tumour is the only truly “curative” treatment in conjunction with chemotherapy. For early stage disease surgery alone (cholecystectomy, removal of the gall bladder) is considered curative.

Once the tumour has spread to the muscle layer more extensive surgery including removal of the gall bladder and resection of segments of the liver may be necessary. Sometimes a Whipple’s procedure is necessary. Once the disease has progressed to stage IV, the tumour is likely not operable.

Even with improving surgical techniques, the risk of recurrence is high.

Treatment and ongoing intensive monitoring is essential with this type of cancer.

As a part of a multi-disciplinary approach – Interventional radiology methods TACE and TACP, (offered in Germany- world expert in treating gall bladder cancer) offer some hope for those diagnosed with Gall Bladder cancer, as does immune therapy – particularly autogulous immune treatments and vaccines that boost numbers of your cancer fighting immune cells.

Grace Gawler Institute manages many patients who travel overseas for treatment for this difficult to treat cancer.

Some targeted complementary medicines can also help – but these must be sequenced between chemotherapy treatments. DO NOT Self Prescribe Complementary medicines from the internet – ask your cancer Navigator.

Diagnosis by Biopsy
It is essential to get an accurate diagnosis by tissue biopsy. Despite modern pathology methods many cancers can still be misdiagnosed. If you are diagnosed with this cancer type be sure to get a second opinion and request to have the biopsy rechecked before embarking upon treatment.

Genomic testing can assist especially if the origin of the tumour is uncertain. Sometimes other tumours can spread across the liver and in and around bile ducts. BE SURE. Please contact Grace for more details

This is a difficult cancer to treat – A Survivorship Care Plan can be a first step in educating yourself about navigating life after Gall bladder cancer and helping you communicate knowledgeably with your Grace, your cancer Navigator and other healthcare providers.