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Can Bile Duct Cancer Be Misdiagnosed?

Bile duct cancer, also known as cholangiocarcinoma, is a rare but serious type of cancer that occurs in the bile ducts, which are tubes that connect the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine. Unfortunately, this type of cancer is often misdiagnosed due to its nonspecific symptoms and rarity, which can lead to delayed treatment and poorer outcomes for patients.

In this article, we will discuss the risks of misdiagnosis in bile duct cancer and the importance of seeking care from experienced healthcare professionals.

How is bile duct cancer diagnosed?

Bile duct cancer is typically diagnosed through a combination of tests and imaging procedures. A physical exam, blood tests, and imaging tests such as CT scans, MRI, and ultrasound are often used to identify potential tumours in the bile ducts. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) may also be used to examine the bile ducts more closely and take a tissue sample for testing. A biopsy of the tissue can confirm a diagnosis of bile duct cancer and determine the cancer’s stage and aggressiveness. A multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, including medical oncologists, surgeons, and diagnostic radiologists, will usually work together to determine the best course of treatment for the patient.

Risks of misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis of bile duct cancer can occur due to the overlapping symptoms with other gastrointestinal conditions. The symptoms of bile duct cancer can be similar to those of liver disease, gallbladder disease, and pancreatitis. The common symptoms of bile duct cancer include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), 
  • Abdominal pain, 
  • Itching
  • Dark urine, 
  • Pale stools
  • Loss of appetite, 
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

These symptoms are not unique to bile duct cancer, and thus the diagnosis can be challenging. Misdiagnosis can lead to delays in treatment, which allows the cancer to spread, making it more difficult to treat. In some cases, it can also result in the wrong treatment, leading to more harm to the patient.

Importance of accurate diagnosis

Bile duct cancer is a rare but severe disease, and accurate diagnosis is critical to successful treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, making it easier to treat and increasing the patient’s chances of survival. Prompt and accurate diagnosis can help healthcare providers develop an appropriate treatment plan for the patient, which can improve the patient’s overall outcome.

Get in touch 

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with bile duct cancer or suspect you may have it, seeking care from an experienced multidisciplinary team like Birmingham HPB Clinic can help ensure accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plans. 

Our clinic offers a range of diagnostic and treatment options, as well as second opinions for patients seeking additional insight into their diagnosis or treatment plan. Get in touch on 07508747723 or book your consultation online.