Signs & Symptoms of End-Stage Bile Duct Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, bile duct cancer is most common in older patients. It affects the gallbladder and the bile duct connecting the gallbladder and liver. Your bile duct collects bile from your liver and moves it to your gallbladder when needed for digestion. Your body uses bile to help your small intestine digest fat. When the cancer blocks the bile duct the bile can get backed up. Symptoms of bile duct cancer are caused by this accumulation of bile. Early-stage bile duct cancer often has no noticeable symptoms. If you experience any of the symptoms of end stage bile duct cancer, see your doctor as soon as possible.

  1. Jaundice and Itching

    • Jaundice and itching are the two mote common signs of bile duct cancer. Jaundice is the yellowing of your skin. Your bile contains a component called bilirubin, which is usually emptied into your intestines after moving through your bile duct. Bile duct cancer causes the bile to become backed up and enter the bloodstream. Once in your blood, the bilirubin starts to give you the appearance of yellow skin. Jaundice starts slow and the color deepens and becomes more noticeable as the disease progresses. Jaundice associated with end-stage bile duct cancer can turn not only your skin yellow but also the whites of your eyes. Itching is caused by the back up of bile in your skin tissue.


    • End-stage bile duct cancer can cause pain in the abdomen. This pain often affects the lower part of your abdomen below your ribs on the right side. During the early stages of bile duct cancer you may experience no pain or only minor infrequent pain. Pain associated with end stage bile duct cancer can be constant and severe. Bile is a strong substance that is made to break down the food you eat. As the bile makes contact with tissue outside the bile duct, it can damage the tissue. Pain can also come from the pressure of the backed-up bile or from the tumor as it pushes against your organs.

    Other Signs

    • Other possible signs of end stage bile duct cancer include bloating, weight loss, fever, nausea and the presence of an abdominal mass. The bile causes gas as it backs up in the duct, liver and gallbladder. That gas can cause bloating in your abdomen. Weight loss is usually unintentional and caused by the nausea and loss of appetite. During end-stage bile duct cancer you may get a fever that won’t break or improve. Most of the signs and symptoms of end-stage bile duct cancer can be helped by your doctor’s intervention.

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