Because the bile ducts are deep within the body, they typically don't cause any visible signs or symptoms until the disease is well advanced.
The most common symptoms of biliary cancer include:
- Jaundice: Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
- Itching: Itchy skin can be caused when excess levels of bilirubin reach the skin. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that results from the breakdown of red blood cells. It is usually processed by the liver and passes through the bile ducts before being excreted. Excess bilirubin can be a sign of liver or bile duct malfunction.
- Lack of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Nausea and/or fever: These symptoms are often caused by abnormal liver function, infection caused by the blockage of bile ducts or an increase in bilirubin
- Light-colored stools with dark-colored urine: Bile gives stool its characteristic brown color. If there is a problem with the bile ducts and bile can't get into the small intestine, stool may become pale.
- Enlarged abdominal mass: As the tumor grows and interferes with nearby organs, it can cause a visible mass
- Abdominal pain and/or bloating can occur in advanced stages of bile duct cancer
Having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have bile duct cancer. However, it’s crucial to discuss these conditions with your doctor so that the disease can be diagnosed as early as possible.
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