Test for Bile Duct Cancer

Bile duct cancer is identified, diagnosed, and staged with the help of tests that analyze bile ducts and neighboring organs. It is essential to be aware whether the bile duct can be detached by surgery, when planning for treatment. To find, diagnose, and confirm bile duct cancer; tests and procedures are generally performed at once.

Tests for Diagnosing Bile Duct Cancer

Physical checkup and medical history: A general check-up of the body is carried out to examine health signs, including the signs of ailment, such as any abnormal condition or formation of lumps. It also includes exploring the lifestyle and medical history of the patient.

Laboratory tests: This is a medical procedure for examining specimens of blood, tissue, urine, or additional components present in the body. With the help of these tests, the disease can be diagnosed so as to plan for appropriate treatment and observation over a period of time.

CA 19-9 tumor marker test and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test: In this procedure, the volume of certain components produced by tumor cells, tissues, and other organs in the body is measured in a sample of tissue, urine, or blood.

The presence of increased levels of certain components in the body can relate to specific cancer types. These certain components are termed as tumor markers. For example, bile duct cancer is indicated by abnormal levels of CA 19-9 and CEA, which is also known as a carcinoembryonic antigen.

Ultrasound exam: In this method, high energy sound waves known as ultrasound produce echoes by becoming deflected off interior tissues or organs like the abdomen. A sonogram is the image of body tissues that are generated from the echoes, the images of which can be printed for later use.

CT scan or CAT scan: A sequence of accurate images of interior body sections (especially abdomen) is captured at different angles in this procedure. The images are generated by a computer connected to an x-ray machine. For more detailed views of tissues and organs, one may be asked to consume a dye or it may be infused. This method is also termed as computerized axial tomography, computed tomography, or computerized tomography.

Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI: In this method, a sequence of images of interior body parts is generated by making use of radio waves, a magnet, and a computer. This method could also be called as NMRI (nuclear magnetic resonance imaging).

MRCP (magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography): In this method, a sequence of images of interior body parts such as bile duct, pancreas, liver, gall bladder, and pancreatic duct are generated by making use of radio waves, a magnet, and a computer.

Biopsies for Bile Duct Cancer

Needle biopsy: In this method, without making a surgical cut initially, a fine hollow needle is infused into the tumor through the skin.

A local anesthesia is initially used to desensitize the skin. Generally, the needle is directed into the spot by using a CT scan or ultrasound.

When the picture displays that the needle is pointed towards the tumor, a specimen is drawn into the needle and is observed under a microscope in the lab.

A fine-needle aspiration, which is also known as FNA, is the biopsy used in many cases that make use of a very thin needle connected to a syringe for drawing cell samples.

It is rare that the FNA does not provide sufficient cells for an accurate diagnosis. If this is the case, however, more samples can be collected by making use of a large needle by performing a core needle biopsy.

Laparoscopy: This is a surgical procedure to examine the interior portion of the abdomen such as liver and bile duct to check up for signs and symptoms of cancer.

Tiny cuts are made in the abdominal wall and a thin tube fitted with light known as a laparoscope is inserted through one of the cuts (incisions). To check for signs of cancer, samples of tissues are collected by inserting the equipment either through the same or through some other incisions.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): Bile is carried from the liver to the gallbladder and then from the gallbladder to the small intestine. This ERCP method is used to x-ray the ducts (also known as tubes).

These ducts tend to be confined and the flow of bile is restricted or slowed down, which leads to jaundice. Endoscope reaches the small intestine by passing through the mouth and abdomen.

Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC): This is a method used to x-ray the bile ducts and the liver, in which a thin needle is infused into the liver through the skin beneath the ribs. X-ray is taken by infusing the dye into the bile ducts or the liver. To check for cancer signs, tissue samples are collected.

The stent is a thin soft tube that may remain in the liver to drain out bile into the small intestine or a collection bag exterior to the body when the bile duct is obstructed. This method is used if surgery is not applicable for a patient.


  • https://www.cancer.gov/types/liver/patient/bile-duct-treatment-pdq
  • http://www.genesiscare.co.uk/bile-duct-cancer
  • https://medlineplus.gov/bileductdiseases.html
  • www.cancer.org/…/how-diagnosed.html
  • https://www.cancer.gov/types/liver/patient/bile-duct-treatment-pdq
  • www.urmc.rochester.edu/…/content.aspx
  • www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cancer-of-the-bile-duct/Pages/Diagnosis.aspx

Further Reading

  • All Bile Duct Cancer Content
  • Bile Duct Cancer Prognosis
  • Causes of Bile Duct Cancer
  • Bile Duct Cancer – Cholangiocarcinoma
  • Bile Duct Cancer Research

Last Updated: Aug 23, 2018

Written by

Afsaneh Khetrapal

Afsaneh graduated from Warwick University with a First class honours degree in Biomedical science. During her time here her love for neuroscience and scientific journalism only grew and have now steered her into a career with the journal, Scientific Reports under Springer Nature. Of course, she isn’t always immersed in all things science and literary; her free time involves a lot of oil painting and beach-side walks too.

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