Cholangiocarcinoma screening cannot be performed with any degree of reliability in individuals who are not experiencing symptoms. The bile ducts are located deep within the body, so most early-stage tumors are undetectable through routine physical examinations. Additionally, there are currently no blood tests or other lab tests that can identify bile duct cancer early enough to be useful for screening purposes. For these reasons, cholangiocarcinoma is usually found only after the cancer has advanced enough to cause symptoms. In the absence of cholangiocarcinoma screening tests, individuals are urged to pay close attention to potential signs of bile duct problems, the most common of which are jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes) and abdominal pain, and to promptly report those symptoms to a physician.
Because there is currently no cholangiocarcinoma screening method recommended for routine use in the general population, early detection is vital to achieving the best possible outcome. If there is reason to suspect that a patient has bile duct cancer, a physician will likely take a complete medical history and evaluate the patient’s symptoms and risk factors. After performing an overall physical examination and specifically checking the patient’s eyes for signs of jaundice and the patient’s abdominal region for tenderness, lumps and signs of fluid buildup, a physician may order further testing, such as:
- Liver and gallbladder function tests to measure the amount of bilirubin, albumin, liver enzymes (alkaline phosphatase, AST, ALT and GGT) and other substances in the blood
- Blood tests to detect the presence of CEA and CA 19-9 tumor markers
- Imaging tests, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, which can reveal a bile duct blockage or tumor
- Ultrasound, which can detect tumors
- Cholangiography, which produces images of the bile ducts that can show blockages, narrowing and dilation, all of which are possible signs of cholangiocarcinoma
- Angiography, which produces images of the blood vessels and can reveal blood flow blockages caused by tumors
At Moffitt Cancer Center, our physicians and researchers are continually working to develop new and better cholangiocarcinoma screening techniques designed to detect and address bile duct cancer as early as possible. Our multispecialty team includes surgeons, oncologists and other medical professionals, all of whom have years of experience focused specifically on diagnosing and treating cholangiocarcinoma.
If you have questions about cholangiocarcinoma screening and early detection, contact the experts at Moffitt by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing a new patient registration form online. We see patients with and without referrals.