Bile is a liquid produced in the liver, and stored in large amounts in the gallbladder. It is required by the body for the digestion of fat. Now, the structures that carry this liquid are long tube-like, and each of them is known as a bile duct. These tubes move bile from the liver to the small intestine.
Every cell in the body contains what is known as the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). It contains the information which instructs the cell to grow, divide and die in an orderly fashion. However, certain factors cause unwanted changes in the DNA, leading to what is known as mutation. And when this happens, the instructions that control the cell growth get disrupted. And this may result in a mutated DNA instructing the cell to keep growing. In this way, one affected cell may grow and divide in an uncontrolled way, usually faster, and form a lump of tissue known as a tumor. With time, these cancer cells begin to invade tissues, and spread to other parts of the body, using blood and lymph systems as modes of transmission. In this case, cancerous growths begin to form in the bile duct thus, leading to bile duct cancer, also known as cholangiocarcinoma. Fortunately, this condition is considered to be a rare occurrence, and people between 50 - 70 are known to be the most vulnerable. Also, the condition is found to occur in men more than in women.
Bile Duct Cancer Outlook
# Unfortunately, it is in a few cases (1 in 10 cases) that the cancer gets detected when it has just started developing, and the person is able to have a complete recovery. According to studies, in most cases, life expectancy of a person, after getting diagnosed with bile duct cancer, is about two years on an average. However, there may be exceptions with some people, wherein, 1 out of 20 people may manage to survive the condition for more than 5 years.
# As with most types of cancer, even this one is known to be an asymptomatic condition (without any symptoms), at least when it is in its early stage. And when symptoms do start surfacing, it means that the cancer has already progressed to an advanced stage wherein, the tumor(s) keep the bile from flowing from the liver to the intestine. And this malfunction triggers symptoms such as jaundice, clay-colored feces, itchy skin, dark urine, abnormal weight loss, pain in the abdomen, fever, chills, or night sweats may appear.
# Because this cancer does not show any kind of manifestation in its early stages, it gets diagnosed when it has already reached an advanced stage wherein, the chances of the condition getting cured becomes poorer. The prognosis of the condition is the brightest when it is still in its initial stage. Here, the cancerous cells are localized, or in other words, contained inside the bile duct. And so a part or whole of the affected bile duct may be surgically removed, and the condition could be cured. But once the cancer metastasizes (spread out of its location), then expectations of any cure for the disease becomes bleaker with time.
Despite the poor life expectancy of bile duct cancer, proper treatment can make a great deal of difference in managing the symptoms, and improving the quality of life. Speaking of prevention, because the exact causes of the cancer are not known, no guaranteed ways exist to avoid its development. However, there are ways that can reduce the risks. These may include shunning smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, and taking protection against hepatitis B and hepatitis C viral infections. To add to this, most experts advise people to go for regular medical checkups. It often happens that a person gets diagnosed with cancer during a routine physical examination, even though he/she has no symptoms. And as already mentioned, the sooner a cancer is detected, the better is its prognosis thus, the life expectancy. Take care!