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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Types of bile duct cancer

Every bile duct cancer patient is different. The cancer experts at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) have extensive experience in properly staging and diagnosing the disease, and developing a treatment plan that's tailored to your specific type of bile duct cancer.

Cancers can occur in any part of the bile duct. The exact location of the primary tumor (inside or outside the liver) and the kind of cell involved in the development of the cancer determines the type of bile duct cancer.

Extrahepatic bile duct cancer develops in the ducts outside of the liver. Most bile duct cancers are extrahepatic.

  • Hilar (or perihilar) bile duct cancer, also called Klatskin tumors, form in the area where hepatic duct branches leave the liver. About two-thirds of all bile duct cancers are hilar or perihilar in origin.
  • Distal bile duct cancer occurs near the small intestine, at the opposite end of the duct from perihilar cancer. About one-fourth of all bile duct cancers begin at this location.

The most common type of extrahepatic bile duct cancer occurs in the cells of the mucous gland lining the inside of the bile duct and is called adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinomas account for about 95 percent of all bile duct cancers. Bile duct adenocarcinoma is also called cholangiocarcinoma.

Intrahepatic bile duct cancer begins within the liver in the smaller duct branches. Only about 5 - 10 percent of all bile duct cancers are intrahepatic. Intrahepatic bile duct cancers are sometimes misdiagnosed as liver cancer, and both are typically treated the same way.

Last Revised: 01/27/2017

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