Survival for bile duct cancer

Survival depends on different factors. So no one can tell you exactly how long you will live.

Doctors usually work out the outlook for a certain disease by looking at large groups of people. Because this cancer is less common, survival is harder to estimate than for other, more common cancers.

Some of the statistics have to be based on a small number of people. Remember, they can't tell you what will happen in your individual case.

Your doctor can give you more information about your own outlook (prognosis).

You can also talk about this to the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Survival by stage

There are no UK wide statistics available for bile duct cancer survival by stage. 

The statistics below come from America. They come from the National Cancer Institute's SEER programme. They are for people diagnosed with bile duct cancer between 2010 and 2016. Please be aware that these figures might not be a true picture of survival in the UK. This is due to differences in American health care systems, data collection and the population. 

The American statistics are split into 3 stage groups – localised, regional and distant cancers. In the UK, your doctor might not use these terms. Instead, they might describe your cancer as a number stage (stage 1 to 4). The following descriptions are a guide to help you understand whether your cancer is localised, regional or distant. This isn’t straight forward and will depend on your individual situation. Talk to your specialist if you are unsure which group you are in.

The American statistics are split into 3 groups:

  • localised - usually includes stage 1 and 2 cancers that haven’t spread outside the bile duct
  • regional - usually includes stage 3 cancers that have spread outside the bile duct into lymph nodes or surrounding tissues
  • distant - stage 4 cancers that have spread to other parts of the body, away from the bile duct

The statistics are also split into 2 types of bile duct cancer:

  • intrahepatic bile duct cancer that starts in the liver
  • extrahepatic bile duct cancer that starts outside the liver (perihilar and distal cancers)

Localised
25 out of 100 people (25%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis. 

Regional 
Almost 10 out of 100 people (almost 10%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Distant
2 out of 100 people (2%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Localised
15 out of 100 people (15%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Regional
Around 15 out of 100 people (around 15%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Distant
2 out of 100 people (2%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis. 

Survival for all stages of bile duct cancer

There are no UK wide statistics available for bile duct cancer survival. The following statistics are provided by Public Health England’s National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN). They are for people diagnosed with biliary tract cancer.

Biliary tract cancers include:

  • bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma)
  • gallbladder cancer
  • ampulla of vater cancer (ampullary cancer)

1 year survival

For those diagnosed in England  in 2012

  • almost 30 out of 100 men (almost 30%) survived their cancer for 1 year or more after being diagnosed
  • 25 out of 100 women (25%) survived their cancer for 1 year or more after being diagnosed

5 year survival

For those diagnosed in England in 2008

  • more than 5 out of 100 men (more than 5%) survived their cancer for 5 years or more after they were diagnosed
  • around 5 out of 100 women (around 5%) survived their cancer for 5 years or more after they were diagnosed

What affects survival

Your outlook depends on the stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed. This means how big it is and whether it has spread. 

It also depends on where the cancer is growing, and whether you can have surgery to completely remove it.

Your general health and fitness also affect survival. This is because the fitter you are, the better you may be able to cope with your cancer and treatment.

About these statistics

The terms 1 year survival and 5 year survival don't mean that you will only live for 1 or 5 years.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and researchers collect information. They watch what happens to people with cancer in the years after their diagnosis. 5 years is a common time point to measure survival. But some people live much longer than this.

5 year survival is the number of people who have not died from their cancer within 5 years after diagnosis.

Last reviewed: 
23 Sep 2021
Next review due: 
23 Sep 2024
  • Age-standardised incidence rates, one- and five-year survival, all patients diagnosed with upper gastrointestinal cancers, England
    Public Health England’s National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), 2015

  • Survival Rates for Bile Duct Cancer
    American Cancer Society website, accessed June 2021. 

  • Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma: an international multi institutional analysis of prognostic factors and lymph node assessment
    MC de Jong and others
    Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2011. Vol 29, Number 23. Pages 3140-3145

  • Treatment and prognosis for patients with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. Systematic review and meta-analysis
    MN Mavros and others
    JAMA surgery, 2014. Vol 149, Issue 6. Pages 565-574

  • Guidelines for the management and treatment of cholangiocarcinoma: an update
    SA Khan and others  
    Gut, 2012. Vol 61, issue 12.

  • AJCC Cancer Staging Manual (8th edition)
    American Joint Committee on Cancer
    Springer, 2017

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