Bile duct cancer

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Survival statistics for extrahepatic bile duct cancer

Survival statistics for extrahepatic bile duct cancer are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person's chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for extrahepatic bile duct cancer and what they mean to you.

Net survival

Net survival represents the probability of surviving cancer in the absence of other causes of death. It is used to give an estimate of the percentage of people who will survive their cancer.

In Canada, 5-year net survival statistics for bile duct cancer are included in a group called other digestive system cancers, which includes similar cancers that are grouped and reported together. This statistic does not necessarily reflect the actual survival for the individual cancers within the group.

The 5-year net survival for other digestive system cancers is 21%. This means that, on average, 21% of people diagnosed with other digestive system cancers will survive for at least 5 years.

Survival by stage of extrahepatic bile duct cancer

Survival varies with each stage and treatment of extrahepatic bile duct cancer. The following factors can also affect survival for extrahepatic bile duct cancer.

  • Generally, the earlier extrahepatic bile duct cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.
  • Often extrahepatic bile duct cancer is not detected until it is at a later or advanced stage, which makes it more difficult to treat.
  • Cancer that can be completely removed by surgery (is resectable) is associated with a better outcome.

Survival by stage of extrahepatic bile duct cancer is reported as 5-year relative survival. Relative survival looks at how likely people with cancer are to survive after their diagnosis compared to people in the general population who do not have cancer but who share similar characteristics (such as age and sex).

Survival for extrahepatic bile duct cancer may be grouped according to whether the tumour is:

  • localized – includes stage 1 tumours
  • regional – includes stage 2 and 3 tumours
  • distant – includes stage 4 tumours

There are no specific Canadian statistics available for the different stages of extrahepatic bile duct cancer. The following information comes from a variety of sources and may include statistics from other countries.

Extrahepatic bile duct cancer survival
Group5-year relative survival

localized

30%

regional

24%

distant

2%

The median survival of people with unresectable bile duct cancer is about 6–12 months. Median survival is the period of time (usually months or years) at which half of the people with cancer are still alive. The other half will live less than this amount of time.

Questions about survival

People with cancer should talk to their doctor about their prognosis. Prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • a person's medical history
  • type of cancer
  • stage
  • characteristics of the cancer
  • treatments chosen
  • response to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

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