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Bile Duct Cancer Treatment

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Surgery is the treatment of choice to remove bile duct cancer.  Chemotherapy or radiation may be used if all of the cancer cannot be removed with surgery.  The type of treatment that you receive depends on many factors, including the location and stage of your cancer.

Intrahepatic surgery is used for bile duct cancer that originates in the liver.  This procedure removes the part of the liver that contains cancer.  Surgery for perihilar cancer usually includes removing the bile duct, gallbladder, and part of the pancreas, small intestine, and liver.  The remaining bile ducts are connected to the small intestine.  Part of the pancreas and small intestine is usually removed during surgical treatment of distal bile duct cancer.  A Whipple procedure removes the bile ducts, part of the stomach, duodenum, pancreas, gallbladder, and lymph nodes.  In select cases, a complete liver transplantation may be necessary to treat bile duct cancer.  If all of the cancer cannot be removed, a bypass surgery is used to relieve symptoms of bile duct obstruction.  Bypass surgery creates a new route from the bile duct to the small intestine.

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both may be used to reduce the size of a tumor before surgery or as a follow-up treatment after surgery.  Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to eliminate cancer cells.  Chemotherapy uses cancer-fighting drugs to destroy cancer cells.  There are different types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Even with treatment, some cases of bile duct cancer may return.  This is termed “recurrent bile duct cancer.”  The cancer may come back near the site of the original cancer or in other parts of the body.  Your doctor can explain your risk for recurrent bile duct cancer and possible treatments if it does recur.

The experience of bile duct cancer and cancer treatments can be an emotional process for people with cancer and their loved ones.  It is important that you receive support from a positive source.  Some people find comfort in their family, friends, counselors, co-workers, and faith.  Cancer support groups are another good option.  They can be a source of information and support from people who understand what you are experiencing.  Ask your doctor for cancer support group locations in your area.

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