Biliary tract cancer


Biliary Tract Cancer involves cancerous growths in the gallbladder and/or the bile duct. The uncontrolled epithelial cell growth occurs in the inner lining of the gallbladder and bile duct. These cancerous tumours block the flow of bile as it grows. Biliary Tract Cancer only make up only 2 to 3 percent of all cancers, hence, it is very rare. It is most likely for people that are 60 to 70 years of age to be diagnosed with this cancer, and more common in men. Obesity may also increase the risk of getting biliary tract cancer. Procedures such as magnetic resonance imaging, endoscopic ultrasonography, bile duct biopsy are usually performed to clearly detect cancerous cells in the organs. The only diagnosis of biliary tract cancer is to surgically remove the gallbladder. However, treatment using chemotherapy is currently under research and testing


  • Jaundice (yellowish discoloration of the skin, sclera, and mucous membranes) 
  • Fever 
  • A lump in upper right part of the abdomen
  • Nausea 
  • Weight Loss 
  • Upper abdominal discomfort
  • Itching
  • Abdominal pain and swelling 
  • Dark-colored urine ¤ Diarrhea (caused by unabsorbed fats) 
  • Increased cholesterol (results from the absence of bile)


Cancers of the biliary tract (gallbladder and bile ducts) seldom produce symptoms in the early stages. Patients who develop symptoms of biliary cancer, such as jaundice, will have a physical examination and one or more diagnostic tests. Read more about diagnosis of bile duct cancer.


Treatments for bile duct cancer vary with the size of the tumor and how far it has advanced. Among treatments are surgery, liver transplantation, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, photodynamic therapy and biliary drainage. Where the cancer cannot be completely removed but has not spread outside the liver, liver transplantation may be an option. Mayo Clinic is one of the few institutions in the world offering transplantation for bile duct cancer. Read more about treatment for bile duct cancer.