Bile Duct Tumor | Symptoms and Treatment || MedStar Health

Bile is a fluid produced in the body’s liver, stored in the gallbladder, and used for digestion within the small intestine. Bile moves through the body through small tubes called bile ducts.

A bile duct tumor is an abnormal growth that may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Most gallbladder tumors are benign, but malignant tumors may be indicative of cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer).

If you are suffering from symptoms of a bile duct tumor, our Pancreatic and Biliary Disease Program can provide you with expert care. Our gastroenterologists work in close partnership with a range of other specialists, including experts in radiology, interventional radiology, pathology, and medical oncology.

What are the symptoms of bile duct tumors?

These tumors create blockages that can force bile to enter into the bloodstream. Therefore, the symptoms are similar to those of other duct-blocking conditions, such as gallstones. Symptoms include:

  • Dark urine

  • Light-colored or greasy stool

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes)

  • Abdominal pain

  • Vomiting

  • Weight loss

  • Fever

How are bile duct tumors diagnosed?

Your diagnostic process will begin with a review of your symptoms and medical history.  Afterwards, your clinician may order laboratory tests to assess the level of bilirubin (a substance found in bile) in your blood stream. Elevated levels can indicate a bile duct blockage.

Clinicians often use imaging tests (such as MRIs, CT or PET/CT scans, and ultrasounds) to assess the possibility of a tumor. If further examination is needed, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) or other endoscopic procedures may be used. ERCP allows for both advanced imaging and the collection of blood or tissue samples for analysis.

How are bile duct tumors treated?

If found to be benign, your doctor may need to treat associated infections or perform surgery to restructure the way bile is flowing through your digestive system.

If a malignant tumor is detected early, it may be removed surgically. If the tumor is too large for removal or if cancer has spread, other approaches to care may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or ablation. Ablation uses radio waves to remove thin layers of diseased tissue within the duct. The Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers at our facility provides cutting-edge care for bile duct cancer.

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