Staging is a way of describing where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting the functions of other organs in the body. Doctors use diagnostic tests to determine the cancer's stage, so staging may not be complete until all the tests are finished. Knowing the stage helps the doctor to decide what kind of treatment is best and can help predict a patient's prognosis (chance of recovery). There are different stage descriptions for different types of cancer.
The method used to stage other types of cancers, called the TNM classification (Stage I through IV), is medically complex for bile duct cancer. A simpler way to describe the stages of bile duct cancer is under the headings listed below. By classifying each cancer into one of these categories, the health care team can then plan the best treatment strategy.
Local. This type of bile duct cancer is located only within the bile duct and can be removed surgically. There is no evidence of any spread to areas outside of the bile duct.
Locally advanced. This type is still located only in the area around the bile duct, but does affect nearby organs, arteries, and/or veins. There is no evidence of spread to any distant parts of the body.
Metastatic. The tumor has spread beyond the area of the bile duct to reach distant parts of the body. It is unlikely that surgery can remove the cancer.
Recurrent. Recurrent cancer is cancer that comes back after treatment. If there is a recurrence, the cancer may need to be staged again (called re-staging) using the system above.