We understand that waiting to learn if you have bile duct cancer can be extremely stressful. At Central Maine Healthcare, we know that the first step toward feeling better is knowing what you’re facing. That’s why everyone on our cancer care team is focused on getting you diagnosed as quickly and accurately as possible.
Screening for Bile Duct Cancer
Your bile ducts are deep inside your liver and gall bladder so detecting cancer in these areas during a physical exam is very difficult. And so far there are no reliable blood tests or other tests that can help doctors discover the disease in its early stages.
Usually bile duct cancer is discovered after tumors have grown large enough to create symptoms. One of the most common is jaundice, a yellowing of the eyes and skin, that’s caused by a blocked duct.
Other symptoms of bile duct cancer include:
- Pain in your belly or sides, which can come from fluid buildup
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite/weight loss
- Light-colored stools
- Dark urine
It’s important to note that bile duct cancer is quite rare – only about 8,000 people per year are diagnosed with the disease – so if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s not likely you have bile duct cancer.
Diagnosis of Bile Duct Cancer
Your doctor will use a combination of methods to diagnose your condition, including:
- Physical exam
- Blood tests – in which blood is drawn from your body with a needle and examined in a lab
- Endoscope ERCP spy glass cholangioscopy
- Ultrasound – a pain-free imaging tool that uses soundwaves
- CT scan – which uses powerful x-rays to make an image of the inside of your abdomen
- MRI – using high powered magnets, it creates an image that a radiologist can use to detect a tumor
- Endoscopy – lets your doctor see inside your body without surgery by using like a camera on the end of a cable. An endoscope may also be used to inject dye into your bile ducts, which will then be x-rayed in a test referred to as ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) .
- Laparoscopy – this requires you to be sedated as a small incision is made in your belly. Through this incision, your doctor inserts a thin tube with a light and small video camera so he can see if – and how far – the cancer has spread. This allows him to plan your surgery and treatments.