Treatment for bile duct cancer

Your treatment depends on where the cancer is, how big it is, whether it has spread, and your general health. The main treatments for bile duct cancer are surgery and chemotherapy. You may also have a small tube (stent) put in to help relieve symptoms of the cancer. 

Most people with bile duct cancer already have advanced cancer by the time they are diagnosed. This means that the cancer has spread outside the bile ducts. Treatment for advanced bile duct cancer is usually chemotherapy. 

Preparing for treatment and life afterwards (prehabilitation)

There are things you can do to help you feel more in control of your physical and mental health when preparing for treatment. In the hospital, preparing for treatment is also called prehabilitation or prehab.

Treatment options for bile duct cancer

Treatment for bile duct cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy and targeted cancer drugs. Find out more about the different types of treatment you might have. 

Stents to relieve symptoms of bile duct cancer

You might have a small tube (stent) put in to clear a blockage caused by bile duct cancer. This can relieve your symptoms and help you feel better. 

Surgery for bile duct cancer

The type of surgery you have depends on where the cancer is in the bile duct and if it has spread. You might have surgery to try to remove your cancer if your cancer is only in the bile ducts and hasn't spread elsewhere in the body. 

Chemotherapy for bile duct cancer

Chemotherapy uses anti cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is a common treatment for advanced bile duct cancer. 

Radiotherapy for bile duct cancer

Radiotherapy uses high energy x-rays to treat cancer cells. You might have it to help control symptoms of bile duct cancer such as pain. 

Controlling symptoms of advanced bile duct cancer

Symptoms of advanced bile duct cancer include tiredness and pain. Your doctor might suggest treatments such as pain killers and anti sickness medicines to help you feel better. 

Follow up after treatment for bile duct cancer

You have regular follow up appointments and tests after treatment for bile duct cancer. This is usually every 3 months if you have had surgery to remove bile duct cancer. 

Last reviewed: 
20 Oct 2021
Next review due: 
20 Oct 2024