Survival statistics for bile duct cancer | Cancer Research UK
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A quick guide to what’s on this page

Outlook means your chances of getting better. Your doctor may call this your prognosis. The outcome of treatment for bile duct cancer depends on a number of different factors.

Below, we present further information about the likely outcome of bile duct cancer. There are no national statistics available for different stages of cancer or treatments that people may have had. The statistics we present here are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check each section of our information. For a more complete picture in your own case, you need to speak to your specialist.

We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wants to read this type of information. Remember that you can skip this page if you don't want to read it. You can always come back to it later.

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.

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



About the information on this page

This page has quite detailed information about the survival rates for different stages of bile duct cancer. People ask us for this information but not everyone diagnosed with cancer wants to read it. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment, you can always come back to it later.

The statistics here are intended as a general guide and can't tell you what is likely to happen in your individual case.


Cancer statistics in general

There is more information about different types of cancer statistics in our section about cancer statistics. Unless you are very familiar with medical statistics, it might help to read this before you read the information below.

You may hear doctors use the term 1 year survival or 5 year survival. This does not mean you will only live for 1 or 5 years. It relates to the proportion of people who are alive 1 or 5 years after diagnosis. Doctors use this statistic to compare how well different treatments work.


How common bile duct cancers are

Bile duct cancers are rare. There is very little information about how many are diagnosed in the UK.

In Great Britain fewer than 1,600 people are diagnosed each year with intrahepatic bile duct cancer. Around 400 people are diagnosed with extrahepatic bile duct cancer. (Numbers of people diagnosed in Northern Ireland are not available.)


Overall outlook for bile duct cancer

As with many cancers, the outlook for people with bile duct cancer depends on the stage, grade, and type of cancer you have. There is information below about the outlook for different types of bile duct cancer.

Generally the lower the stage and grade of the cancer, the better the outlook.


Outlook by type of bile duct cancer

There is very little detailed information about outlook for people with bile duct cancer in the UK. It is more difficult to collect information when a cancer is very rare. To give you an idea of the likely outlook we have included American statistics which give more detailed information.

The American statistics are separated into those for bile duct tumours that start in the liver (intrahepatic) or those that start outside the liver (perihilar and distal cancers). They group each into

  • Localised – cancers that are stage 1
  • Regional – usually includes stage 2 and 3
  • Distant – cancers that are stage 4, meaning they have spread to other parts of the body away from the bile duct

These are all relative survival figures. This means that statisticians have adjusted them to account for people dying for reasons other than their cancer. The statistics are also divided into different types of bile duct cancer.

Intrahepatic bile duct cancer
For people who can have surgery, between 20 and 40 out of every 100 people (20 to 40%) will live for more than 5 years.

Unfortunately for people with an intrahepatic cancer that has spread to another part of the body and can’t be removed with surgery, only around 2 out of every 100 people diagnosed (2%) will live for more than 5 years.

Perihilar or distal bile duct cancers
For people who can have surgery, between 25 and 50 out of every 100 people (25 to 50%) will live for 5 years or more.

For people whose cancer has spread at diagnosis and can’t be removed with surgery only about 2 out of every 100 people diagnosed (2%) will live for more than 5 years.


How reliable these statistics are

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people. The statistics are not detailed enough to tell you about the different treatments people may have had. They also don’t tell us how that treatment may affect their outlook.

Many individual factors will determine your treatment and prognosis. So it is always best to discuss any figures with your own specialist who has all your notes and treatment details.


Clinical trials

Taking part in clinical trials can help to improve treatments for bile duct cancer. There is information about the different types of trials and what trials are in the trials and research section. You can search for trials for bile duct and gallbladder cancer on our clinical trials database.

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Updated: 20 January 2015