Bile Duct Cancer Survivorship

About Bile Duct Cancer

At Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center, patients with bile duct cancer receive their care from a multidisciplinary team of nationally recognized experts in the diagnosis, treatment and research of gastrointestinal cancer.

Cholangiocarcinoma is a rare cancer involving the bile ducts. Bile ducts are the structures within the gastrointestinal tract that carry bile. Bile is the digestive fluid excreted by the liver, which flows via the bile ducts into the intestine.

There are two types of cholangiocarcinomas:

  • Intrahepatic: cancer that arises from within the liver
  • Extrahepatic: cancer that arises from outside of the liver and distal bile ducts

Cholangiocarcinomas can be further classified based on the tissue from which they arise. Most cholangiocarcinomas are adenocarcinomas, meaning they arise from glandular tissue.

Bile duct cancer is rare, accounting for about 3 percent of all gastrointestinal cancers.

Penn Medicine's multidisciplinary approach to cancer diagnosis and treatment provides better outcomes and gives patients access to the most advanced treatment, surgical techniques and clinical trials.

Because navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right physician.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more About Bile Duct Cancer

Diagnosing Bile Duct Cancer

An accurate cancer diagnosis from trusted cancer specialists is the first step in getting personalized treatment options for treating bile duct cancer.

Patients who choose Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center benefit from a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists including gastroenterologists, radiologists, pathologists and surgeons who work together to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan custom designed for every patient with bile duct cancer.

Cancer specialists at Penn Medicine are highly experienced in using the most advanced techniques for diagnosing cancer and are actively researching better and more precise ways to detect bile duct cancer.

An accurate diagnosis is an important step in planning cancer treatment, so it’s important patients know that when they come to the Abramson Cancer Center, they are taking an important step in getting the best cancer treatment available.

Navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse to help them make an appointment with the right physician. Penn Medicine’s contact center has experienced cancer nurses available and ready to guide patients in finding the cancer specialist right for them.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more Diagnosing Bile Duct Cancer

Bile Duct Cancer Treatment

Following the diagnosis and staging of bile duct cancer, cancer specialists at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center develop a personalized treatment plan. Penn’s treatment options for bile duct cancer include:

  • Surgery
    • Bile duct resection
    • Partial hepatectomy
    • Whipple procedure
    • Surgical biliary bypass
    • Endoscopic stent placement
  • Radiation therapy
    • 3-D conformal radiation
    • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
    • Volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT)
    • Proton therapy
    • Brachytherapy
  • Chemotherapy and biologic therapies
  • Clinical trials
  • Other treatments
    • Integrative medicine and wellness
    • Palliative care
    • Penn Home Care and Hospice

Because navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right physician.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN.

Read more Bile Duct Cancer Treatment

Bile Duct Cancer Survivorship

Survivorship programs at Penn Medicine are a distinct phase of bile duct cancer care and are designed to help patients' transition from their cancer treatment routine to a post-cancer care lifestyle.

Cancer treatments can result in physical, emotional and financial complications long after the therapy is complete.


Personalized Survivorship Care

At the end of treatment, bile duct cancer patients should schedule a visit with their oncologist and nurse practitioner. At this time, patients are provided with a summary of the treatment received as well as a plan for follow-up care.

Long-term cancer survivors should speak to their oncologists and nurse practitioner about scheduling a one-time survivorship-focused consultation with a nurse practitioner or physician. Annual or more frequent follow-up appointments are also available.

Penn cancer providers work one-on-one with patients to develop survivorship care plans. Since every cancer is unique, the plans are tailored to the patients. 

The survivorship care plan includes information on:

  • Potential long-term or late side effects of cancer treatment, the symptoms and treatment.
  • Recommendations for cancer screening for disease recurrence or a new cancer.
  • Psychosocial effects, including relationships and sexuality.
  • Planning follow-up visits.

A survivorship care plan encourages patients to review the information with their health care team and become active participants in their follow-up care.

Penn also offers cholangiocarcinoma patients support programs and groups to enhance their care.

Oncology Navigation Specialists

Every step of cancer treatment; from a cancer diagnosis, to surgery and treatment to forming a survivorship plan; comes with different needs and issues that should be addressed.

Oncology Navigation Specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center are available to make a patient’s experience as seamless as possible. As experts in navigating complex health care situations, patient support specialists serve as a consistent point of contact and a reliable source for advice, support and direction for patients and families. They can help in a variety of ways including; provide emotional support, identify resources, and ensure access to information, support services, educational programs and community resources.

Learn more about patient navigation specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center.

Survivorship Programs at Penn Medicine

Penn Medicine's Living Well After Cancer™ Program is a nationally recognized program that focuses on issues facing cancer survivors. In 2007, the Abramson Cancer Center was designated a LIVESTRONG ™ Survivorship Center of Excellence Network.  The Abramson Cancer Center is only one of eight LIVESTRONG centers in the United States, and is the only LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence in the Philadelphia region. The program focuses on survivorship, a distinct phase of care.

Prescription for Living: The Cancer Survivorship Program at the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital, provides patients with a summary of important information about specific cancer diagnoses and treatments, as well as follow-up information and steps to take towards recovery, supportive care and education to help patients adjust to their lives as cancer survivors.

Continued Support

Penn offers cancer patients support programs and groups to enhance their survivorship care plans.

The Abramson Cancer Center produces a wide range of materials and hosts activities that provide education and support to address key areas of concern including survivorship for cancer patients and their family and friends.

Focus On: Gastrointestinal Cancers is a day-long conference that addresses issues for patients with gastrointestinal cancer, as well as their loved ones.


Suzi F. Garber

Suzi F. Garber, of Reading, PA., a neuroendocrine tumor patient at the Abramson Cancer Center, writes about her experience so that others might benefit from her story and become proactive advocates for themselves and their loved ones.

For ma

Stand Up to Cancer

Peter O'Dwyer, MD, professor of Hematology-Oncology and program director of Development Therapeutics in the Abramson Cancer Center, was interviewed on NBC10's 10! Show about Penn's work as part of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team... Read more

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are studies to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. The purpose of each clinical trial is to answer a specific question. Our physicians carefully design these studies to find new ways to improve care and quality of life ... more about clinical trials