Surgery to control symptoms

You might have surgery to unblock a bile duct and relieve symptoms such as jaundice. This is called palliative surgery. This can give you a better quality of life for longer.

Why do you have this

You are most likely to need this type of treatment if your cancer is blocking your bile duct or bowel and making you feel or be sick. Unblocking your bile duct can also relieve jaundice symptoms, such as severe itching and generally feeling ill.

There are 2 types of procedure that can be done:

  • a biliary bypass
  • putting in a catheter or tube (stent)

Biliary bypass

A biliary bypass means that the surgeon will cut your gallbladder or bile duct above the blockage and reconnect it to your small bowel (intestine). This allows the bile to go around (bypass) the cancer.

Putting in a catheter or tube (stent)

Small tubes called stents, or larger tubes called catheters, can help to drain bile that is blocked by the tumour. You might need to have a catheter that drains bile into a bag outside your body. Or you may be able to have a stent put inside the bile duct to drain bile through the blocked area and into the small bowel.

Stents often work well at allowing the fluid to drain again. Sometimes they become blocked after a while. It is often possible to unblock a stent, or put in a new stent. If this is not possible your jaundice will come back.

Last reviewed: 
21 Jan 2020
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