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Bile duct cancer

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Treatment of resectable extrahepatic bile duct cancer

The following are treatment options for resectable extrahepatic bile duct cancer. The types of treatments given are based on the unique needs of the person with cancer.

Resectable extrahepatic bile duct cancer can be completely removed by surgery. Surgery is the preferred treatment and offers the best outcome. Surgery is more likely to be an option for early stage extrahepatic bile duct cancer, such as stage I and II perihilar bile duct tumours and stage I and II distal bile duct tumours.


Surgery is the primary treatment for resectable extrahepatic bile duct cancer. The type of surgery done depends on the location and extent of the tumour. The types of surgery that may be done are:

  • removal (resection) of the extrahepatic bile duct
  • for perihilar (proximal) bile duct tumours – removal of the bile duct and part of the liver (partial hepatectomy)
  • for distal bile duct tumours – removal of the bile duct, gallbladder, part of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine (duodenum) and part of the stomach (pancreatoduodenectomy or Whipple procedure)

There are some studies that report improved survival when external beam radiation therapy is given, with or without chemotherapy, after surgery for resectable bile duct cancer (adjuvant therapyadjuvant therapyTreatment given in addition to the first-line therapy (the first or standard treatment) to help reduce the risk of a disease (such as cancer) coming back (recurring).). The usefulness of adjuvant therapy after surgery is yet to be determined, but it may be helpful if the cancer wasn't completely removed by surgery or if the surgical margins or regional lymph nodes are found to contain cancer.

Clinical trials

People with extrahepatic bile duct cancer may be offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. For more information, go to clinical trials.


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