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Bile Duct Tumors

Tumors may develop in the bile ducts, small ducts that carry bile (a substance needed for digestion) from the gallbladder to the small intestines. Gallstones are a common cause of blocked bile ducts. Cancer also can block the bile ducts.

People with chronic GI conditions-such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, polyps or a family history of GI cancer have a higher risk of developing bile duct cancer.

How is it diagnosed?
How is it treated?
How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?
Frequenstly Asked Questions

How is it diagnosed?

Certain tests and procedures may be recommended to diagnose or rule out bile duct tumors.  Diagnostics include:

  • Intraductal ultrasound (IDUS) - uses a small microprobe that passes into the bile ducts and pancreatic duct.  This probe can help the doctor view inside the body to identify malignant (cancerous) or benign blockages of the bile duct.  (Gallstones are bothersome, but they are benign/non-cancerous).
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) - may be used to diagnose problems in the gallbladder or bile ducts. ERCP combines X-rays and an endoscope, and enables the physician to view inside the biliary tract.  Dye may be injected to enhance visibility on the X-ray.
  • Cholangioscopy - is a newer diagnostic procedure that uses a very thin fiberoptic tube that passes from the mouth and into the bile duct so the doctor can see inside the duct.  The tube can be maneuvered so different sides of the duct are visible.  The doctor can biopsy tissue during this procedure, which involves taking a small sample of the tissue to be analyzed in the pathology lab.  Sometimes, cholangioscopy is performed through a needle that is inserted through the abdominal wall and into the bile duct, instead of down the mouth and throat.


How is it treated?

Physicians may recommend a number of treatment options, including:

  • Surgery-for bile duct cancer is very complicated and depends upon the location of the bile duct cancer. Surgeons may need to remove part or all of the liver, as well as the bile duct, gallbladder, and possibly part of the pancreas and small intestine. Surgery can be performed laparoscopically, where a telescope-like tube is used to minimize incisions.
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) - an advanced method of high-precision radiotherapy that uses a linear accelerator to deliver radiation to the tumor site, based on 3-D imaging of the tumor dimensions obtained through CT scanning. The linear accelerator focuses high-dose radiation beams directly on the tumor, thereby minimizing radiation exposure to healthy tissue near the tumor site.  For more impact, the linear accelerator delivers radiation from several different angles around the tumor.
  • Brachytherapy - involves implanting seeds, wires or rods that contain radioactive isotopes inside the body, close to the tumor site.  These implanted devices allow high doses of radiation to be concentrated right at the tumor site, so there is less damage to surrounding non-cancerous tissue.  Sometimes radiation oncologists combine brachytherapy with external beam therapy for a more powerful effect.


How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?

Advocate Christ Medical Center is one of few medical centers in the region with diagnostic endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) capabilities to detect and stage bile duct cancer.  Accurate staging provides information on the cancer's status, which is critical for effective treatment planning. 

Patients at Advocated Christ Medical Center benefit from the collaboration of many specialists who have expertise in a broad range of areas yet all dedicated to providing the best solutions to diagnose and treat cancers of the digestive system.  Gastroenterologists, GI surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, hepatologists, oncology nurses and others work collaboratively to consider all perspectives and potentialities before recommending a treatment plan tailored to each individual's situation.

With the most advanced technologies and experienced cancer specialists, Advocate Christ Medical Center offers the resources to address complex cancer cases.  Christ Medical Center draws patients who seek new options after previously receiving care at larger academic hospitals.

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