What is biliary cancer?
Biliary cancer (sometimes also referred to as bile duct cancer and gallbladder cancer) includes bile duct cancer, gallbladder cancer and ampullary cancer.
- Biliary tract cancer, also called cholangiocarcinoma or bile duct cancer, is classified depending on which part of the bile duct the cancer develops in. It can occur in the bile ducts within the liver (intrahepatic), at the junction of the left and right hepatic ducts (hilar) or in the common bile duct outside the liver (extrahepatic).
- Gallbladder cancer originates in the cells of the gallbladder.
- Ampullary cancer develops in the ampulla of Vater, where bile ducts from the liver and pancreas join and enter the duodenum.
- Duodenal cancer develops in the duodenum, the first and shortest part of the small bowel (e.g. small intestine), between the stomach and jejunum.
About the biliary ducts
The biliary tract is part of the digestive system and includes the gallbladder and bile ducts. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped pouch in the upper abdomen that stores bile, which is made in the liver. Bile is a fluid that helps to digest food, and the gallbladder releases it when we eat.
Bile ducts are tubes that carry bile from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine. The right and left hepatic ducts begin in the liver and join outside the liver to form the common hepatic duct. This then joins with the cystic duct (from the gallbladder) to form the common bile duct, which passes behind the pancreas and joins with the pancreatic duct at the ampulla of Vater before opening into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine).
In some cases, the duodenum can be considered part of the upper gastrointestinal tract rather than the lower gastrointestinal tract, because of its proximity to and connection with the ampulla of Vater and bile ducts and its role in the digestive process. The treatment of duodenal cancer is very similar to that of other biliary tract cancers.