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Extrahepatic Bile Duct Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - General Information About Extrahepatic Bile Duct Cancer

Extrahepatic bile duct cancer is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the ducts that are outside the liver.

The extrahepatic bile duct is made up of two parts:

  • Common hepatic duct, which is also called the perihilar part of the extrahepatic duct.
  • Common bile duct, which is also called the distal part of the extrahepatic duct.

The extrahepatic bile duct is part of a network of ducts (tubes) that connect the liver, gallbladder, and small intestine. This network begins in the liver where many small ducts collect bile (a fluid made by the liver to break down fats during digestion). The small ducts come together to form the right and left hepatic ducts, which lead out of the liver. The two ducts join outside the liver and form the common hepatic duct. Bile from the liver passes through the hepatic ducts, common hepatic duct and cystic duct and is stored in the gallbladder.

When food is being digested, bile stored in the gallbladder is released and passes through the cystic duct to the common bile duct and into the small intestine.
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Anatomy of the extrahepatic bile duct. The extrahepatic bile duct is made up of the common hepatic duct and the common bile duct. Bile is made in the liver and flows through the extrahepatic bile duct to the gallbladder where it is stored.

Having colitis or certain liver diseases can increase the risk of extrahepatic bile duct cancer.

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors include having any of the following disorders:

  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis.
  • Chronic ulcerative colitis.
  • Choledochal cysts.
  • Infection with a Chinese liver fluke parasite.

Signs and symptoms of extrahepatic bile duct cancer include jaundice and pain.

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by extrahepatic bile duct cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes).
  • Pain in the abdomen.
  • Fever.
  • Itchy skin.
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