Your diet

Find out how bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) can affect your diet. 

Many people who have bile duct cancer lose their appetite and some may lose weight. If you have jaundice it can be difficult for your body to take in fat from your diet. You might need to take supplements to boost your calorie intake, and you may need to avoid fatty food until you have had treatment to relieve the jaundice.

Any problems you might have with eating after surgery will depend on the type of surgery you had. Some surgery to cure bile duct cancer involves removing the gallbladder, part of the bowel, the liver and pancreas. This type of operation can lead to diarrhoea. And when you eat you may need to take supplements to help you digest some foods.

Tell your doctor or specialist nurse about any digestive symptoms so they can give you treatment to control them. It can sometimes take time to get things right.

Snacks and small meals

You may find it easier to have lots of small meals through the day, rather than sticking to the traditional three meals a day.

It is a good idea to have plenty of nutritious snacks to hand that you can have whenever you feel like eating. If you can manage it, it's best to choose full fat versions of yoghurts and puddings, so that you get the most calories.

You could try:

  • yoghurts or fromage frais
  • other soft puddings such as trifle or chocolate mousse
  • dried fruit
  • stewed or fresh fruit (bananas are high in calories)
  • nuts
  • cheese
  • instant soups (make up with milk to boost calories)
  • cereal
  • milky drinks
  • flapjacks

Some of these ideas may not suit your digestion but they might be worth a try. If in doubt, check with your dietitian.

Try to think of quick ways of having the things you like to eat. If possible, get someone to prepare your favourite foods in advance and freeze them in small portions. A microwave makes defrosting and heating easier and quicker.

A diet to build you up

If you have lost weight you may need to increase the amount of calories you eat.

You can sprinkle protein powders or high energy powders onto everyday foods or add them to recipes. You can also get complete meals in a drink. Ensure and Fresubin are well known makes. You can get these drinks on prescription from your doctor or buy them from chemist shops. Some of these come in 200ml cartons (the size of a small fruit juice carton).

Sipping a supplement between meals throughout the day can really boost your calorie intake. Ask your dietitian for advice on what to use and what you can get on prescription.

Last reviewed: 
04 Dec 2020
Next review due: 
04 Dec 2023
  • Biliary cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up
    JW Valle and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2016. Volume 27, Pages 28-37

  • Guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of cholangiocarcinoma: an update
    SA Khan and others 
    Gut, 2012. Volume 61, Pages 1657-1669