A variety of tests and procedures are used to diagnose bile duct cancer at Mayo Clinic, including:
- Visually inspecting the bile ducts for signs of cancer. Doctors use a long, thin tube with a camera on the end (endoscope) to inspect your bile ducts for signs of cancer. An endoscope is passed down your throat, through your stomach and into the first portion of your small intestine, where your bile duct empties.
Endoscopy can be combined with imaging tests, such as ultrasound and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, to create pictures of the bile ducts and with biopsy procedures to collect tissue samples.
- Removing a sample of tissue for testing. Laboratory testing of suspicious tissue helps your doctor make a diagnosis. Information gathered during testing may help shape your treatment plan.
A biopsy sample can be collected with a needle that is inserted through your skin. Or a sample can be removed during endoscopy.
- Imaging tests. Imaging tests give your doctor more clues about your bile duct cancer and can help determine the extent of your cancer. Imaging tests may include CT, MRI, positron emission tomography (PET) and bile duct X-ray (cholangiography).
- Exploratory surgery. Sometimes doctors use exploratory surgery to investigate a suspected cancer. This procedure can involve one large incision or several small incisions (minimally invasive surgery). Minimally invasive surgery involves special tools that are inserted through the incisions, along with a camera that allows your doctor to see inside your body.