Bile is one of the digestive juices that help in the emulsification and breakdown of dietary fats. It is secreted by the liver and is taken to the gallbladder for storage through many pipes called bile ducts. From the bile ducts, the bile is taken to the small intestine where it breaks down fat. Cholangiocarcinoma is a type of cancer that arises in the bile ducts which is quite rare and occurs mostly in people above the age of 50 years. They are a part of a family of tumours called adenocarcinomas.
Depending on the part of the cancer of bile ducts that a tumour grows, Cholangiocarcinoma can be divided into three types:
- Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma- This type of cancer occurs in the area of the bile duct which is within the liver.
- Hilar cholangiocarcinoma- it occurs in the part of the bile duct which is just outside the liver.
- Distal cholangiocarcinoma- this occurs in the bile duct that is nearest to the small intestine.
Symptoms of Cholangiocarcinoma Are As Follows:
- Dark urine and pale white-colored stool
- A condition of yellowing of skin, nails, and eyes is called jaundice
- Excessive itching due to jaundice
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue and weight loss
- Pain in the abdominal region that penetrates in the back as the cancer growth increases
The main cause behind cholangiocarcinoma is the random change or mutation which occurs in the DNA of the cells of a bile duct. Once the mutation occurs the cells lose control of the division of cells forming a tumour. The real reason why the mutation occurs is not known.
Having a history of chronic liver disease increases the risk of cholangiocarcinoma. A health condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis causing scarring and hardening of bile ducts also cause cholangiocarcinoma. Problems with the bile duct at birth like choledochal cyst can fall prey to this chronic disease in the future. Excess of smoking and liver fluke infection can be a high-risk factor for getting affected by cholangiocarcinoma.
Even after this type of cancer has been treated successfully, surgeries may have to be performed in order to open up the blocked bile ducts. The correct diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma can be done by a few tests like liver function tests, tumour marker tests, and imaging tests like ERCP, CT scans, and MRI scans.
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