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Bile Duct Cancer

Integrative Treatment Options for All Stages of Bile Duct Cancer

Bile Duct Cancer Treatment Center

Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) starts when cells in the bile ducts, the tubelike structures that connect the gallbladder and liver to the small intestine, begin to mutate and grow uncontrollably.

These abnormal cells eventually mass to form a tumor. It’s a rare but deadly form of cancer that needs early detection and treatment to give patients the best chance of beating the disease.

What Is Bile Duct Cancer?

Doctors classify any malignancy that begins in the bile ducts as a cholangiocarcinoma. However, they classify rare malignancies that start elsewhere in the body and spread into the bile ducts as metastatic cancer of the organ in which the cancer originated.

When the tumor forms in the bile ducts in the liver, doctors refer to it as “intrahepatic bile duct cancer.” On the other hand, if the cancer forms in bile ducts outside the liver, doctors call it “extrahepatic bile duct cancer.”

What Causes Bile Duct Cancer?

Doctors haven’t found a single determinative factor that causes bile duct cancer. However, as the Cleveland Clinic points out, chronic bile duct inflammation might cause the changes in cellular DNA that drive the initial mutation and growth. Risk factors include:

  • Having a Hispanic heritage
  • Aged 70 or older
  • Having abnormalities in the junction between the pancreatic and bile duct
  • A history of bile duct cysts or stones
  • Chronic ulcerative colitis
  • Infection with a liver fluke parasite native to China (clonorchiasis)
  • Having had hepatitis B or C
  • A history of cirrhosis of the liver or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Having human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • A history of inflammation and scarring that block bile ducts (primary sclerosing cholangitis)
  • A history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Alcohol overuse
  • A history of diabetes
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity

What Are the Symptoms of Bile Duct Cancer?

Like in liver cancer, patients with bile duct cancer often do not notice symptoms until the disease is well advanced or has spread to other nearby tissues or another part of the body.

For that reason, people at high risk for cancer of the bile ducts should consider more frequent checkups or screenings.

Symptoms of bile duct cancer include:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Itchy skin without a known cause
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Yellow-colored skin or the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Light-colored stools without a known cause

What Types of Bile Duct Cancer Are There?

In addition to extrahepatic and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas, bile duct cancer can also start in the hilum, the place where blood vessels and the bile ducts connect with the liver. This type of cancer is called a hilar cholangiocarcinoma.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Bile Duct Cancer?

After doctors determine that a patient’s symptoms indicate that they might have bile duct cancer, they will usually look at your history, conduct a physical examination, and ask you some questions to determine if you are at high risk for the disease.

Then, if the doctor cannot rule out other causes for your symptoms, they will probably schedule some other tests to see if you do have bile duct cancer. These tests might include:

  • Tumor marker tests: These blood or urine tests check for tumor markers, substances that often indicate the presence of cancer.
  • Liver function tests: Since bile duct cancer can block the bile ducts, doctors check patients’ blood for substances that show that the liver isn’t functioning at optimum levels.
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP): A special type of MRI imaging, MRCPs use the MRI machine to examine only the organs involved in cholangiocarcinomas, namely, the bile ducts, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, and pancreatic duct.
  • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC): Doctors insert a needle into a patient’s liver and bile ducts to introduce contrast dye into these organs. The slightly radioactive dye allows the organs to show up on X-rays so that the doctor can see any tumors in these organs.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): In this test, doctors use a tiny camera called an endoscope, advancing it through the mouth into the small intestine with thin, flexible tubes. Like other endoscopic exams, this test requires sedation. During the test, doctors will pump contrast dye into the tubes so they can perform an X-ray exam to check for tumors. In addition, if a tumor or stone has caused a blockage, the doctor can insert a stent to open the duct so it can function.
  • Biopsy: If the other tests reveal a high probability of a patient having bile duct cancer, the doctor will confirm that diagnosis by taking a tissue sample to check for cancer cells, using a needle to obtain a tiny amount of tissue to examine under the microscope.

How Do Doctors Stage Bile Duct Cancer?

Generally, doctors classify bile duct cancer by what they call the “TNM classification system.” They use the tumor’s location, size, and spread to determine the stages. These stages are:

  • Local: The tumor remains inside the bile duct and is easily removed by surgery.
  • Locally advanced: The tumor has spread into nearby tissues, organs, or blood vessels, but not into remote areas of the body.
  • Metastatic: The cancer has spread to remote areas of the body.
  • Recurrent: After treatment, some cancers return. Doctors use this category to classify a tumor that has come back.

How Can I Prevent Bile Duct Cancer?

There’s no 100% guarantee that you won’t get bile duct cancer. But by taking a few precautions, you can reduce your risk. Here are some preventative steps you can take:

  • If you’re at high risk for the disease, consider preventative screenings.
  • Avoid situations that put you at risk for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
  • Receive a hepatitis B vaccination.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake.
  • Maintain a body weight within normal ranges.
  • Quit smoking – or never start.

What Natural Treatments Can Treat Bile Duct Cancer?

Integrative medicine offers a wealth of natural treatment options for bile duct cancer patients.

These non-toxic interventions can serve both as complementary therapies to traditional cancer treatments or as standalone therapies. These alternative cancer treatments include:

Mistletoe IV Therapy

Mistletoe plants produce several compounds that have proven beneficial in treating a variety of cancers, including bile duct tumors. One of mistletoe’s healing properties, especially when doctors combine it with hyperthermia treatments, is its ability to induce fevers, which activate the body’s own immune system to attack the malignant cells that form the tumor.

Studies show that mistletoe extract can extend even advanced cancer patients’ chances of survival. Coupled with other alternative or traditional treatments, it represents a powerful weapon against bile duct cancer.

High-Dose Vitamin C IV Therapy

Another nature-sourced treatment that pairs well with other cancer therapies is vitamin C (ascorbic acid) delivered intravenously. With its excellent safety profile and its ability to induce cell death in bile duct cancer cells while leaving normal cells alone, it’s a top choice in treating aggressive cancers.

Combined with whole-body hyperthermia, doctors can achieve a higher concentration of ascorbic acid in the bloodstream, delivering even more of the life-giving substance to the malignant cells. It also works well combined with artesunate and melatonin, the Brio-Medical team and other integrative medicine practitioners have discovered.

Curcumin IV Therapy

While curcumin is found naturally in turmeric, a key ingredient in many Asian-inspired dishes, it’s not present in a high enough concentration to have medicinal benefits. Intravenous administration solves this problem, enhancing all the cancer-killing properties this plant-based medication can offer.

Those properties are especially effective on cholangiocarcinoma cells, a 2010 study showed. Its “pro-oxidant property” suppressed cellular redox, depriving cancer cells of the low-oxygen environment they require to make new blood vessels and spread into neighboring tissue. Eventually, IV curcumin treatment drove cell death in the bile duct cancer cells.


Hyperthermia is another non-invasive treatment that has proven effective against bile duct cancer, especially in conjunction with other treatments. A 2018 case report notes that a patient whose hilar bile duct tumor could not be surgically removed showed marked improvement when doctors applied heat to the area, stopping the progression of the disease when combined with another cancer treatment.

Natural Immunotherapy

Bile duct cancer, as a 2020 medical literature review points out, is especially resistant to the body’s own immune cells. Bile duct cancer cells, studies show, “contain a protein that prevents immune cells from attacking the cancer.”

Introducing immunotherapeutic medications enhances the body’s immune system to give it the ability to overcome this roadblock, giving patients the chance to stop bile duct cancer in its tracks.

Consider Alternative Treatments for Bile Duct Cancer

With a dismal 5-year survival rate of only 20.8% when treated with traditional interventions, bile cancer patients should consider alternative cancer treatments instead of ineffective conventional therapies. Whether in combination with traditional therapies or as a course of treatment on their own, these holistic treatments have shown great promise in stopping the progress of bile duct cancer.

With Brio-Medical’s caring staff by your side, you’ll never have to fight cancer alone. We’ll create a customized course of treatment that will give you the best chance to beat the disease. Schedule your free initial consultation today!

External references:

Cochrane, Justin, and Greg Schlepp. “Metastatic Breast Cancer to the Common Bile Duct Presenting as Obstructive Jaundice.” Case reports in gastroenterology vol. 9,2 278-84. 31 Jul. 2015, doi:10.1159/000438744

“Liver and Bile Duct Cancer,” National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov/types/liver. Accessed September 27, 2022.

“Cholangiocarcinoma.” The Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21524-cholangiocarcinoma. Accessed September 27, 2022.

“Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer).” The Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cholangiocarcinoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20352408. Accessed September 27, 2022.

“Bile Duct Cancer (Cholangiocarcinoma) Stages.” The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/types/bile-duct-cancer-cholangiocarcinoma/diagnosis/stages. Accessed September 27, 2022.

Ostermann, T. et al. “Survival of cancer patients treated with mistletoe extract (Iscador): a systematic literature review.” BMC Cancer vol. 9, 451 (2009). doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-451.

Wang, Changzheng et al. “SVCT-2 determines the sensitivity to ascorbate-induced cell death in cholangiocarcinoma cell lines and patient derived xenografts.” Cancer letters vol. 398 (2017): 1-11. doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2017.03.039.

Suphim, Bunliang et al. “Redox modulation and human bile duct cancer inhibition by curcumin.” Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association vol. 48,8-9 (2010): 2265-72. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2010.05.059.

Ryu, Juyoung et al. “Patient with Unresectable Cholangiocarcinoma Treated With Radiofrequency Hyperthermia in Combination With Chemotherapy: A Case Report.” Integrative cancer therapies vol. 17,2 (2018): 558-561. doi:10.1177/1534735417722225.

Guo, Xurui, and Weizhang Shen. “Latest evidence on immunotherapy for cholangiocarcinoma.” Oncology letters vol. 20,6 (2020): 381. doi:10.3892/ol.2020.12244.

“Cancer Stat Facts: Liver and Intrahepatic Bile Duct Cancer.” National Cancer Institute, https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/livibd.html. Accessed September 27, 2022.

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