Further tests for bile duct cancer | Cancer Research UK
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Further tests for bile duct cancer

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This page tells you about further tests you may have if you have been diagnosed with bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma). You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Further tests for bile duct cancer

Further tests help your doctor to decide on the treatment you need. If your tests show that you have bile duct cancer, your doctor needs to check the size and position of the cancer. They also need to check whether the cancer has spread. You may have one or more of the following tests

After the tests

Your doctor will ask you to go back to the hospital when your test results have come through. This is bound to take a little time, even if only a week or so. You are likely to feel anxious during this time. While you are waiting for results it may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel. Or you may want to contact a cancer support group to talk to someone who has been through a similar experience.

 

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

 

Why you need further tests

Further tests help your doctor to decide on the treatment you need. If your tests show that you have bile duct cancer, your doctor needs to check the size and position of the cancer. They also need to check whether it has spread.

 

PET scan

Your doctor might suggest a PET scan to try to show whether an abnormal area is fibrous scar tissue or active cancer.

Scar tissue cells are not very active. Cancer cells are actively growing a lot of the time. PET scans show up cell activity, so this can be a useful way of finding areas containing cancer cells.

There is detailed information about having a PET scan in the section about cancer tests.

 

PET CT scan

A PET-CT scan is a combination of a PET scan and a CT scan. A PET-CT scan takes CT pictures of the structures of your body. At the same time, a mildly radioactive drug shows up areas of your body where the cells are more active than normal. The scanner combines both of these types of information. This allows your doctor to see any changes in the activity of cells and know exactly where the changes are happening.

You may have a PET-CT scan instead of a CT scan. The scan can show where the cancer is. You will have an injection of dye before the scan to help show up abnormalities. There is detailed information about PET-CT scans in the cancer tests section. PET-CT scans are not available in every hospital so you may need to travel to have one.

 

Looking inside the abdomen (laparoscopy)

A laparoscopy is a small operation. A laparoscope is a tube with a camera and a light. Your doctor makes small cuts (incisions) in your tummy (abdomen) and gently pushes the tube inside. They can look inside for signs of cancer and can see the gallbladder. Laparoscopy can help to plan surgery or other treatments for you.

You have this test under general anaesthetic. Afterwards, you will have one or more small wounds, with a couple of stitches in each.

During a laparoscopy, your doctor can take small bits of tissue (biopsies) to examine for cancer cells. If you have a cancer, the biopsies may show the exact type you have. Biopsies may also help to show how far your cancer has grown (the stage). This helps your doctor decide which treatment will be best for you.

 

After your tests

You usually go back to see your specialist to get your test results. The results are bound to take a little time, even if only a week or so. You are likely to feel anxious during this time.

While you are waiting for results it may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel. Or you may want to contact a cancer support group to talk to someone who has been through a similar experience.

Look at the bile duct cancer organisations page to find people who can give you information about support groups.You can look at the counselling organisations page to find details of counselling services near you.

After being diagnosed with bile duct cancer, you should see a doctor who specialises in this type of rare cancer, if you haven't already. 

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Updated: 9 November 2016