Tests for bile duct cancer

You might have one or more of these tests to find out the cause of your symptoms. Once bile duct cancer is diagnosed, you then have further tests to find out the size of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. This tells you the stage of the cancer. Knowing the stage helps your doctor decide which treatment you need. 

You usually start by having blood tests. You then have different scans such as CT scan and MRI scan. Your doctor will explain the different tests and why you might have them. 

Blood tests for bile duct cancer

You have blood tests to check your general health and to help find the cause of your symptoms. A blood test on its own can't diagnose bile duct cancer.

Ultrasound scan for bile duct cancer

An ultrasound scan uses high frequency sound waves to create a picture of your bile ducts, pancreas and liver from outside the body. It's called an abdominal ultrasound scan.

CT scan for bile duct cancer

A CT scan uses x-rays and a computer to create detailed pictures of the inside of your body. It is a common test to help doctors diagnose bile duct cancer. 

MRI and MRCP scan for bile duct cancer

You might have an MRI scan, or a type of MRI called an MRCP. It usually takes between 15 and 90 minutes to have an MRI scan. 

Endoscopic ultrasound scan (EUS) for bile duct cancer

An endoscopic ultrasound scan combines ultrasound and endoscopy to look at your food pipe, stomach, pancreas and bile ducts.

ERCP for bile duct cancer

ERCP stands for endoscopic retrograde cholangio pancreatography. It can help to diagnose conditions of the liver, bile ducts, pancreas or gallbladder.

Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) for bile duct cancer

You might have a PTC if you have symptoms of a blockage in your bile ducts. This test looks for abnormal areas in your bile ducts using x-rays. 

PET scan for bile duct cancer

PET stands for positron emission tomography. You might have a PET scan to find out how big the cancer is and whether it has spread (the stage). 

Laparoscopy for bile duct cancer

Laparoscopy is a small operation to look inside your tummy (abdomen). You might have it to help your doctor decide if surgery to remove the cancer is possible.  

Biopsy for bile duct cancer

A biopsy means taking a sample of cells or tissue and looking at it under a microscope. You usually have a biopsy during tests such as an ERPC or PTC. 

PET-CT scan for bile duct cancer

A PET-CT scan combines a CT scan and a PET scan. You might have a PET-CT scan to find out more about your cancer and whether it has spread. 

Last reviewed: 
27 Sep 2021
Next review due: 
27 Sep 2024
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