Bile Duct Cancer: After Treatment

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about your medical care after cancer treatment is finished and why this follow-up care is important. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

After treatment for bile duct cancer ends, talk with your doctor about developing a follow-up care plan. This plan may include regular physical examinations and/or medical tests to monitor your recovery for the coming months and years. ASCO offers cancer treatment summary forms to help keep track of the cancer treatment you received and develop a survivorship care plan once treatment is completed.

People treated for bile duct cancer may need to visit the doctor regularly for several years because there is always a risk that the tumor will recur after treatment or that the person will develop another tumor. Researchers are studying ways to prevent both recurrences and the development of secondary or “new” tumors, but currently there is no standard preventive treatment.

If the tumor was not removed by surgery and a stent or surgical bypass was used to relieve jaundice, the most important part of follow-up care is making sure the stent or bypass procedure still works to remove the blockage. If jaundice becomes worse (a deeper yellow), if a person becomes jaundiced again after the stent has originally cleared the blockage, or if a person develops a fever along with sweating, shaking, or abdominal pain, a doctor should be consulted immediately, as the stent may need to be changed or repositioned.

A possible long-term side effect of treatment for bile duct cancer is the development of strictures after any surgery to the biliary system (bile ducts and gallbladder). These are noncancerous scars that form slowly, but may narrow the bile ducts causing symptoms similar to those of the original bile duct cancer.

People treated for bile duct cancer are encouraged to follow established guidelines for good health, such as maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating a balanced diet, and having recommended cancer screening tests. Talk with your doctor to develop a plan that is best for your needs. Moderate physical activity can help rebuild your strength and energy level. Your doctor can help you create an appropriate exercise plan based on your needs, physical abilities, and fitness level. Learn more about the next steps to take in survivorship, including making positive lifestyle changes.

The next section offers a list of questions you may want to ask. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Questions to Ask the Doctor, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.