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Bile duct cancer

About bile duct cancer

Bile duct cancer is a rare disease that begins in the bile ducts, thin tubes that transport digestive fluid, known as bile, from the liver and gallbladder into the small intestine. The exact location of the primary tumor (inside or outside the liver) and the kind of cell involved in the development of this disease determines the type of bile duct cancer.

An estimated 8,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with a bile duct cancer annually, according to the American Cancer Society. Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, a type of bile duct cancer that develops in the cells that line the small bile ducts within the liver, accounts for 10 percent to 20 percent of cancers that start in the liver. When bile duct tumors block the flow of bile and bilirubin from the liver, a person with this disease may exhibit jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes. The disease may cause other symptoms such as itching, abdominal pain and weight loss. Due to the location of the bile ducts deep inside the body, these tumors are rarely caught early. Surgery is typically the first line of treatment.

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