Bile duct cancers usually grow slowly, spread gradually and seldom produce symptoms in the early stages. In many cases, bile duct cancer tumors are diagnosed at an advanced stage. In some cases, particularly with perihilar or extrahepatic tumors, the tumor may block the bile duct, causing these symptoms.
- Turning yellow (jaundice), the most common initial sign of bile duct cancer
- Enlarged gallbladder
- Intense itching (pruritus)
- Brown, tea- or coffee-colored urine
- Loss of appetite and weight
- White or clay-colored stools
Locations of bile duct cancer influence surgical treatment and include:
- Perihilar (or hilar) bile duct cancer. Also called Klatskin tumor, this is the most common type of bile duct cancer. This tumor is located where the right and left hepatic bile ducts meet as they are leaving the liver.
- Intrahepatic bile duct cancer. This type of cancer develops in the small bile duct branches inside the liver (intrahepatic).
- Extrahepatic bile duct cancer. Also known as distal bile duct cancer, this occurs close to the small intestine, outside the liver (extrahepatic).