Bile duct cancer is also known as cholangiocarcinoma. This is a condition in which tumors begin to develop in the bile duct. Though this disease is very rare, there are about 4,000 cases reported every year in the United States of America alone. This type of cancer is seen only in patients older than 65 years. The disease is usually detected when a person has abnormal liver test results or continued jaundice. There may be weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and lethargy. There are two major types of bile duct tumors, and these are distal tumors and Klatskin’s tumors.
Bile duct cancer survival rate is not very high. The only cure to this cancer is the complete removal of the tumors. Unfortunately, this is rather difficult. Recurrence is rather common in those who have undergone the Whipple operation for complete removal of the tumor.
Despite a complete removal, the survival rate is low, and five year survival rates are only 40%. The common bile duct cancer survival rate is lesser since a complete removal of the tumor is usually not possible.
Bile duct cancer is staged according to the tumor histology, location, and degree of metastasis. Stage 4 bile duct cancer implies that the tumor is not completely operable. Since the tumor cannot be completely removed in this stage, stage 4 bile duct cancer survival rate is very low.
There are several treatment options in such a case, but the survival rates continue to vary depending on the tumor histology and metastasis. Doctors usually recommend stage 4 bile duct cancer patients to participate in clinical trials as this can help improve the prognosis.
In case of extrahepatic bile duct cancer, the cancer is outside the bile duct, but is still difficult to operate on. Resection of the tumor is a viable option and is often considered as the treatment. However, despite the best efforts to obtain a tumor free margin, the survival rates are not very encouraging. Since resection is not always possible, recurrence is very common in this kind of cancer. Recurrence in a five or a seven year margin is very common, and the extrahepatic bile duct cancer survival rate is less than 20 percent for five years. The survival rate for seven years is much less.
In rare cases, despite the cancer’s inoperability, some patients can still continue to show improvement. However, they are not considered completely cured unless there are no chances of a recurrence.