Female physician in scrubs

Cholangiocarcinoma is an extremely rare form of cancer affecting the bile ducts which connect the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine. The bile ducts are part of the biliary system which makes and stores bile to help digest fat. Bile duct cancer prevents the bile ducts from distributing bile, making digestion more difficult.

While cholangiocarcinoma is slightly more common in males than females and typically affects those over the age of 50, it can occur in either gender and at any age.

Symptoms of the disease may include:

If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your doctor and get diagnosed early. Left untreated, cholangiocarcinoma can lead to other conditions such as:

  • Gallstones
  • Liver parasitic infection
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis (a disease that damages and blocks bile ducts)
  • Ulcerative colitis

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Treatment for Cholangiocarcinoma

There are a variety of treatments available. The experts at the UPMC Liver Cancer Center can determine what will work best for you.

At UPMC, we believe in a multimodality approach, meaning more than one type of therapy will be used to treat your condition.

Depending upon your condition, your doctor may consider these treatment options:

  • Surgical resection – both minimally invasive (laparoscopic) and traditional (open) liver surgery to remove the tumor
  • Radiofrequency ablation – shrinks inoperable tumors
  • CyberKnife® – a form of radiation therapy using high energy x-rays
  • Chemotherapy – administered through the artery supplying blood to the liver or through a pump directly into the liver
  • Liver transplant – replacing an unhealthy liver with a portion of a healthy one

Liver transplantation may be the best or only option for certain types of tumors. The UPMC Liver Transplant Program, one of the oldest and largest in the United States, treats some of the most complex liver conditions, including cholangiocarcinoma.

Living Donation as an Option

For patients on the liver transplant waiting list, living donation provides a life-saving option and can reduce time spent waiting for an organ. With a living-donor liver transplant, you can be proactive in finding someone willing to donate a portion of their liver to replace your unhealthy liver.

Living-donor liver transplant recipients typically have quicker recovery times and better outcomes compared to those who receive a deceased-donor liver transplant.

If you or a loved one are in need of a liver transplant and want to learn more, visit us at UPMC.com/GiveLife.











About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.