Bile duct cancer – know the risks and symptoms
What are some of the symptoms to look out for?
The most common symptomS to look out for are:
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Itching of the skin
- Oily stools and dark urine
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
What are the risk factors for bile duct cancer?
The chance of developing bile duct cancer is higher for smokers, those who drink alcohol excessively, older people and those with a family history of cancer. Certain health conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, as well as conditions that lead to chronic inflammation of the bile ducts, such as hepatitis, infections of the liver, and liver cirrhosis, can also increase the risk for this type of cancer.
Where bile duct cancer occurs
Bile is an alkaline fluid that your liver makes and secretes before it gets stored in the gall bladder. Bile is important. Your body needs it to digest the fats in foods you eat. The bile your liver secretes is transported through a series of bile ducts or thin tubes from your liver to your small intestine. It is here, in the small intestine, where the bile works to digest fat in your diet. Although rare, bile duct cancers, called cholangiocarcinomas, can develop in the cells of the glands that line the inside of this bile duct system. It is often found in the thin tubes in the liver, the thin tube joining the left and right tubes that come from the liver, or in the small tubes closest to the small intestine.
Cost of treatment
“Being diagnosed with cancer can be overwhelming, so if you are part of a medical scheme, contact them to confirm what support they will provide,” says Dr Sandile Mhlongo, Clinical Specialist at Discovery. He says, “Discovery Health Medical Scheme offers members diagnosed with cancer support through a uniquely designed Oncology Programme and claims are paid from the Oncology Benefit on the option you have.” “Confirmed treatment in a hospital is not limited to any amount, and benefits have been developed to provide you with the best possible cover and support when you need it.” Mhlongo says that, “Discovery Health Medical Scheme has also introduced an Advanced Illness Benefit. This new benefit ensures those with advanced stage cancer have access to the best palliative care from nurses and care workers who are experienced in this field.” Each benefit option, the cover you have for cancer treatment, and providers where you can get cover in full, are explained on the Discovery Health Medical Scheme website, www.discovery.co.za or you can contact them.
Diagnosing and treating bile duct cancer
The bile ducts are located deep inside the body and cannot be felt during physical exams. And, there are no blood or other screenings available to diagnose bile duct cancer. This is why it is often found only after the cancer has developed to cause symptoms. Ultrasounds or other scans can show blockages in the bile ducts. At this stage, the health practitioner may decide to perform surgery immediately to confirm a diagnosis. The stage of bile duct cancer will determine further treatment. Treatment plans will usually consider the location and extent of the cancer, sideeffects and the individual’s overall health. The main types of treatment for bile duct cancer, depending on the individual case, include: • Surgery – either to remove the tumour or to relieve symptoms and prevent complications. • Radiation therapy – to shrink the tumour before surgery, to kill possible deposits following surgery, or to relieve symptoms. • Chemotherapy – following surgery to lower the risk that the cancer will return or to shrink or slow the growth of the tumour. • Palliative therapy – to control or reduce symptoms of advanced cancer.