Primary bile duct cancer is uncommon. Each year, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with bile duct cancer. The number of new cases of bile duct cancer is increasing, mostly due to rising rates of intrahepatic bile duct cancer. The reason for this increase is not known. It may be due to the use of more accurate tests to diagnose this type of cancer. Previously, intrahepatic bile duct cancer may have been thought to be a different type of cancer.
In some parts of the world, a parasite called a liver fluke can infect the bile duct and cause cancer. Liver flukes are very common in Asia and the Middle East, and therefore bile duct cancer is more common in these regions. Also, gallstones and inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract, such as ulcerative colitis or an associated condition called sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the bile ducts and causes scarring, increase the risk of bile duct cancer.
The five-year survival rate (the percentage of people who survive at least five years after the cancer is detected, excluding those who die from other diseases) for people diagnosed with bile duct cancer depends on the location of the tumor and if or where it has spread. The five-year survival rate for a person with an early stage, extrahepatic cancer is 30%; with an early stage, intrahepatic cancer, it is 15%. The survival rate decreases if the cancer has spread outside the bile duct or into the nearby blood vessels before it is diagnosed.
Cancer survival statistics should be interpreted with caution. Estimates are based on data from thousands people with this type of cancer in the United States, but the actual risk for a particular person may differ. It is not possible to tell a person how long he or she will live with bile duct cancer. Because the survival statistics are measured in five-year intervals, they may not represent advances made in the treatment or diagnosis of this cancer. Learn more about understanding statistics .
Source: American Cancer Society.