Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Bile duct cancer symptoms

Like many cancer types, bile duct cancer symptoms do not appear in the early stages of the disease. The bile duct is located deep inside the body, so early tumors cannot be easily detected during routine physical exams.

A tumor in the bile duct blocks the flow of bile and bilirubin from the liver or gallbladder to the intestine resulting in jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes. The most common and earliest symptoms of bile duct cancer are related to abnormal liver functions and include jaundice, weight loss and changes in stool or urine.

cancer symptoms

Bile duct cancer symptoms

Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) symptoms may include:

  • Jaundice: Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
  • Itching: This may occur when the excess bilirubin in the blood reaches the skin. Itching is commonly noticed in patients with bile duct cancer.
  • Decreased appetite/weight loss.
  • Enlarged abdominal mass/bloated feeling: This happens due to the pressure of the tumor on nearby organs
  • Abdominal pain: This symptom of bile duct cancer usually appears in the advanced stages of the disease.
  • Nausea and/or fever: A side effect of abnormal liver function or the buildup of bilirubin, nausea and/or fever may also result from an infection (cholangitis) caused by bile duct blockage.
  • Changes in stool or urine (light colored stools and dark urine): Bilirubin contributes to the color of the stools in the intestine and in the absence of bilirubin the stool may look lighter or chalky in color. The bilirubin may then be released through the urine, turning it a darker shade.

Understanding cancer symptoms

These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. If you notice any cancer signs or symptoms, it's important to visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

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