Bile Duct Cancer (Cholangiocarcinoma) Stages

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Bile duct cancer is classified according to the type and stage, from the earliest to the most advanced. The stages of bile duct cancer are based on the location and size of the tumor and how far it has spread.

Cancers at similar stages tend to have a similar outlook and are often treated in much the same way. When we know the stage of the cancer, our doctors can prepare a treatment plan that’s customized specifically to each person’s needs. The TNM classification system groups bile duct cancer into one of four stages. Here is a description of the stages:

Bile Duct Cancer Stages

  • Local Local bile duct cancer has not spread outside of the bile duct and can be removed by surgery.
  • Locally Advanced Locally advanced bile duct cancer is located in the bile duct, and it has spread to nearby organs, arteries, or veins but not to distant parts of the body.
  • Metastatic Metastatic bile duct cancer has spread to distant parts of the body and probably requires a treatment other than surgery.
  • Recurrent Recurrent bile duct cancer has come back after treatment. It may need to be staged again (called restaging) using the TNM classification system.

Bile Duct Cancer Treatment Groups

The stages of bile cancer are also generally grouped by how the cancer may be treated. There are two treatment groups:

  • Localized (Resectable) Bile Duct Cancer The cancer is in an area, such as the lower part of the common bile duct or hilar area (just outside the liver), where it can be removed completely by surgery.
  • Unresectable, Metastatic, or Recurrent Bile Duct Cancer
    Unresectable cancer cannot be removed completely by surgery. Most people with bile duct tumors have unresectable cancer. Metastatic bile duct cancer may have spread to the liver, other parts of the belly, or distant parts of the body. Recurrent bile duct cancer is cancer that has come back after treatment. The cancer may return in the bile ducts, liver, or gallbladder. Less often, it may come back in distant parts of the body.