ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the estimated number of people who will be diagnosed with bile duct cancer each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors, and no 2 people with cancer are the same. Use the menu to see other pages.
Every person is different, with different factors influencing their risk of being diagnosed with this cancer and the chance of recovery after a diagnosis. It is important to talk with your doctor about any questions you have around the general statistics provided below and what they may mean for you individually. The original source for these statistics is provided at the bottom of this page.
How many people are diagnosed with bile duct cancer?
Primary bile duct cancer is uncommon in the United States. Each year, an estimated 8,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with bile duct cancer. The average age at diagnosis for people with intrahepatic bile duct cancer is 70. For extrahepatic bile duct cancer, the average age at diagnosis is 72.
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 Southeast Asia, and bile duct cancer is more common in this part of the world. Also, gallstones and inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract, such as ulcerative colitis or an associated condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), increase the risk of bile duct cancer. PSC is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the bile ducts and causes scarring. See the Risk Factors and Prevention section for more information.
What is the survival rate for bile duct cancer?
There are different types of statistics that can help doctors evaluate a person’s chance of recovery from bile duct cancer. These are called survival statistics. A specific type of survival statistic is called the relative survival rate. It is often used to predict how having cancer may affect life expectancy. Relative survival rate looks at how likely people with bile duct cancer are to survive for a certain amount of time after their initial diagnosis or start of treatment compared to the expected survival of similar people without this cancer.
Example: Here is an example to help explain what a relative survival rate means. Please note this is only an example and not specific to this type of cancer. Let’s assume that the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of cancer is 90%. “Percent” means how many out of 100. Imagine there are 1,000 people without cancer, and based on their age and other characteristics, you expect 900 of the 1,000 to be alive in 5 years. Also imagine there are another 1,000 people similar in age and other characteristics as the first 1,000, but they all have the specific type of cancer that has a 5-year survival rate of 90%. This means it is expected that 810 of the people with the specific cancer (90% of 900) will be alive in 5 years.
It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with bile duct cancer are only an estimate. They cannot tell an individual person if cancer will or will not shorten their life. Instead, these statistics describe trends in groups of people previously diagnosed with the same disease, including specific stages of the disease.
The survival rates for bile duct cancer vary based on several factors. These include the stage of cancer, a person’s age and general health, and how well the treatment plan works.
The 5-year relative survival rate for extrahepatic bile duct cancer in the U.S. is 10%. If the cancer is diagnosed in an early stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 17%. If the cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year relative survival rate is 16%. If the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year relative survival rate is 2%.
The 5-year relative survival rate for intrahepatic bile duct cancer in the U.S. is 9%. If the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 24%. If the cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year relative survival rate is 9%. If the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year relative survival rate is 2%.
Experts measure relative survival rate statistics for bile duct cancer every 5 years. This means the estimate may not reflect the results of advancements in how bile duct cancer is diagnosed or treated from the last 5 years. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.
Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society website. (Source accessed February 2023.)
The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers drawings of the bile duct. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.