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Treatment of recurrent extrahepatic bile duct cancer
The following are treatment options for recurrent extrahepatic bile duct cancer. The types of treatments given are based on the unique needs of the person with cancer.
- what kind of treatment was previously given, if any
- where the cancer recurred
- the person’s overall health
Recurrent extrahepatic bile duct cancer is usually unresectable (cannot be removed by surgery), so it is often treated in the same way as an unresectable extrahepatic bile duct cancer. Treatment is usually palliative.
Palliative surgery or procedures
Palliative surgery or procedures are not used to remove the tumour. Instead, palliative treatment is given to relieve the signs and symptoms of advanced bile duct cancer, such as:
- jaundicejaundiceA condition in which the skin and whites of the eyes become yellow and urine is dark yellow. – occurs when cancer blocks the bile duct and stops the flow of bile
- pain and inflammation of the bile ducts (cholangitis) – caused by a tumour blocking the bile duct
- abdominal pain – caused by cancer in the liver or other organs or structures in the abdomen
Palliative surgery or procedures may include:
- placing a small wire or plastic tube (stent) to keep the bile duct open and drain the liver
- inserting a tube (catheter) to drain bile
- doing a biliary bypass to change the flow of bile
Chemotherapy is used for unresectable recurrent extrahepatic bile duct cancer. Chemotherapy drugs called radiosensitizers may also be combined with radiation therapy to make the cancer cells more sensitive to the effects of radiation.
External beam radiation therapy may be offered for recurrent extrahepatic bile duct cancer to relieve pain and other symptoms. If the person had radiation therapy before, they may not be able to receive it in the same treatment area. This is because the tissues can only tolerate a certain amount of radiation therapy.
Brachytherapy may also be offered in some situations. It may be used in combination with external beam radiation therapy.
People with extrahepatic bile duct cancer may be offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. For more information, go to clinical trials.
Clinical trial discovery improves quality of life
A clinical trial led by the Society’s NCIC Clinical Trials group found that men with prostate cancer who are treated with intermittent courses of hormone therapy live as long as those receiving continuous therapy.