Should I see a bile duct cancer specialist? | Cancer Research UK
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Should I see a bile duct cancer specialist?

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This page tells you about the guidelines that UK GPs have to help them decide who needs to see a specialist for suspected bile duct cancer and how soon. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what’s on this page

Should I see a bile duct cancer specialist?

Symptoms of bile duct cancer can be very similar to symptoms of other less serious conditions. So it can be very difficult for GPs to tell who may have a suspected cancer and who has something much more minor that will go away on its own. But there are particular symptoms that mean your GP should refer you to a specialist straight away. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says the following symptoms need an urgent referral to a specialist

  • Jaundice (yellowing skin) caused by a blockage
  • Unexplained abdominal pain and weight loss, with or without back pain
  • Feeling and being sick continuously, and losing weight

You should ideally get an appointment within 2 weeks for an urgent referral. If you have symptoms and you don’t think your GP is taking them seriously enough, you could print out this page and take it to your appointment. You may be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist, and how soon. It is important to see a doctor with specialist knowledge of treating bile duct cancer.


CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the about bile duct cancer section.

 

 

Who should see a specialist

Symptoms of bile duct cancer can be very similar to symptoms of other less serious conditions. So it can be very difficult for GPs to tell who may have a cancer and who may have something much more minor that will go away on its own.

With many symptoms, it is perfectly right that your GP should ask you to wait to see if they get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics. If GPs referred everyone who came to see them to a specialist immediately, the system would get jammed. People needing urgent appointments wouldn't then be able to get them.

Seeing a specialist

There are particular symptoms that mean your GP should refer you to a specialist straight away. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs to be seen urgently by a specialist.

While reading these guidelines, it is important to remember that

  • Bile duct cancer (or cholangiocarcinoma) is rare, with around 1,600 people diagnosed each year in Great Britain
  • A number of risk factors affect your chances of developing a bile duct cancer
  • General symptoms, such as feeling sick or tired, are much more likely to be caused by something less serious
 

UK guidelines

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says that the following symptoms need urgent referral to a specialist.

  • Jaundice (yellowing skin) caused by a blockage
  • Unexplained abdominal pain and weight loss, with or without back pain
  • Feeling and being sick continuously, and losing weight

You should ideally get an appointment within 2 weeks for an urgent referral.

Do bear in mind that the symptoms above can be caused by other less serious medical conditions. They do not necessarily mean that you have bile duct cancer.

 

What to do if you are still worried

If you have symptoms and are concerned that your GP is not taking them as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page and take it along to an appointment. Ask your GP to talk it through with you. Then you may be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist and, if so, how soon.

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Updated: 13 January 2015