Cholangiocarcinoma is a rare form of cancer that develops in the cells lining the bile duct. Patients with cholangiocarcinoma usually present at late stages of the disease, when the cancer is too far advanced to be treated by surgical resection.1 Over the past 30 years, the incidence of bile duct cancers has been on the rise. This may be attributed to increased recognition of these malignancies, which may have been previously diagnosed as cancers of unknown origin.1 The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 8000 new cases of cholangiocarcinoma are diagnosed in the United States each year, but the actual number of cases may be higher.2 How much do you know about cholangiocarcinoma?
Cholangiocarcinoma is classified by its location in relation to the liver. Approximately 90% of cases develop in a bile duct outside of the liver (extrahepatic) and approximately 10% begin in the small duct branches within the liver (intrahepatic).1,2 The 5-year overall survival rate for intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma is 8% for all stages combined, whereas the 5-year overall survival rate for extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma is 10% for all stages combined.2 Although the disease can occur in younger individuals, the average age of diagnosis for intrahepatic and extrahepatic bile duct cancers are 70 and 72 years, respectively.3 Public awareness of cholangiocarcinoma needs to remain a priority to increase survival rates and improve patient quality of life.