Diagnosis & Staging

How is bile duct cancer diagnosed?

After jaundice sets in, X-rays can help lead doctors to the blockage. Often the tumors are very small, which makes diagnosis very hard. In fact, small tumors can be hard to see on an X-ray. Both a CT scan and MRI are designed to look at the bile ducts can be helpful. Specialists in gastroenterology and radiology can help unblock the bile duct and make the diagnosis.

The results of a blood test called Ca 19-9 are often higher in bile duct cancer. It can also be higher for other reasons, including simply a bile duct blockage. So this test alone is not useful for making a conclusive diagnosis of bile duct cancer. The Ca 19-9 may also be used to follow patients after cancer has been removed.

What are the stages of liver cancer?

If you have liver cancer, your doctor will check to see if it has spread to other organs and, if so, how far. This is called ‘staging.’ It is important to know the stage of your cancer in order to make your treatment plan. The doctor will also make treatment recommendations based on liver disease you may have already had.

To learn more about the stage of your liver cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.