Chemotherapy and medicines for advanced bile duct cancer | Cancer Research UK
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Chemotherapy and medicines for advanced bile duct cancer

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This page is about chemotherapy and medicines for symptoms of advanced bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma). Medicines include painkillers, anti sickness drugs, and medicines to help with mood changes. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what’s on this page

There are a number of different types of drugs to help control symptoms of advanced bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma). Chemotherapy uses anti cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Your doctor may suggest chemotherapy to help to control your symptoms. It does this by shrinking the cancer or by slowing its growth.

If you have pain you will have painkillers. Many people will be pain free with the right type and dose of painkillers. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have pain. There are many different types of painkillers. You may need to try a few types to get the right one for you.

Some people with advanced bile duct cancer feel sick. There are different ways of treating sickness depending on the cause. If you have jaundice your doctor may need to put a small tube (stent) into your bile duct so the bile can flow through again. The tube can help to relieve sickness. There are also anti sickness drugs you can have.

Most people find it difficult to cope when they are diagnosed with advanced cancer. You may feel very sad or depressed. Counselling can help you to talk through your feelings and emotions. Your doctor may also prescribe a course of anti depressants to help you to feel better.

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

 

Chemotherapy

Your doctor may suggest chemotherapy to help control symptoms by shrinking the cancer or slowing its growth. This can help to reduce pain and other symptoms. The chemotherapy drugs that can help some people with advanced bile duct cancer include

Researchers compared gemcitabine on its own with gemcitabine and cisplatin. They found that the combination treatment helped people to live about 3 months longer than gemcitabine on its own. They recommend that this should be the standard treatment for advanced bile duct cancer.

Below is a video about the trial and its results.

Your doctor may ask you to take part in a clinical trial testing chemotherapy. New drugs and new combinations of current drugs are being tested all the time. Trials help us to find out which treatments work best. To find out more you can search for trials for bile duct cancer on the clinical trials database.

 

Pain control

You may have pain with advanced bile duct cancer. So you may need to take painkilling drugs. Many people can have good pain control with the right type and dose of painkillers. At the very least, you should not be in pain when you are resting. Pain when you are moving around is more difficult to get rid of altogether, but this can often be done.

There is detailed information about types of painkillers and other ways of controlling pain in our coping physically section.

 

Anti sickness medicines

The best way of controlling sickness depends on what is causing it. There are many different anti sickness medicines and your doctor will choose the one that is most likely to deal with the cause of your sickness.

You may need treatment to relieve a blockage in your bile duct. Draining the fluid that is collecting above the blockage can help to relieve sickness. Your doctor may suggest surgery or a stent to drain the fluid.

A blockage where the stomach meets the bowel can also cause sickness. Your doctor may suggest a stent to relieve this type of blockage. They can put a stent in during an endoscopy.

We have a whole section about controlling sickness. The section gives information about the different causes of sickness and how they are treated. The section also includes information about anti sickness medicines.

 

Treatment for mood changes

Most people find it difficult to cope when they are diagnosed with advanced cancer. It is common for people with advanced bile duct cancer to feel very sad or to become depressed. You may find it helpful to understand this as a part of your illness.

There is advice on how to deal with your feelings in the coping emotionally section. This section includes information about the different emotions you may feel and how to cope with them. There is also information on talking about cancer and about treating depression. Your doctor may prescribe a course of anti depressants to help you to feel better.

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Updated: 22 January 2015