Bile duct cancer symptoms typically do not appear in the early stages of the disease. The bile ducts are thin tubes that connect the liver to the small intestine and remove bile from the liver and gallbladder. The ducts are located deep inside the body, so early tumors cannot be easily detected during routine physical exams, which is largely why this cancer type is seldom detected at an early stage.
Because bile duct tumors may blocks the flow of bile and bilirubin from the liver or gallbladder, the earliest and most common symptoms of bile duct cancer are related to abnormal liver functions and include jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes. Decreased appetite, weight loss, changes in stool or urine (light colored stools and dark urine) are also symptoms of this cancer.
Other bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) symptoms may include:
Itching: This may occur when the excess bilirubin in the blood reaches the skin.
Enlarged abdominal mass/bloated feeling: This happens due to the pressure of the tumor on nearby organs.
Abdominal pain: This symptom of bile duct cancer usually appears in the advanced stages of the disease.
Nausea and/or fever: A side effect of abnormal liver function or the buildup of bilirubin, nausea and/or fever may also result from an infection (cholangitis) caused by bile duct blockage.