Liver Cancer & Bile Duct Cancer
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Houston Methodist’s specialists are among the nation’s best in treating liver cancer and bile duct cancer. We are committed to using cutting-edge technology and a multidisciplinary approach to screen, diagnose and treat these cancers.
We provide advanced cancer care at seven locations across the Greater Houston area, allowing you or your loved one to receive treatment close to home or work.
Why Choose Houston Methodist for Liver Cancer & Bile Duct Cancer Treatment
Our specialists, nurses and staff coordinate your cancer care in a compassionate, supportive environment that is supported by a team-based approach and research.
The benefits of choosing our liver cancer and bile duct cancer care team include:
- A team of specialists, including oncologists, surgeons, hepatologists and gastroenterologists, who work together to develop a treatment plan tailored to your unique liver or bile duct cancer and lifestyle needs
- Advanced diagnostics and treatment options, including minimally invasive techniques to treat liver cancer
- Close coordination with our expert transplant surgeons if a liver transplant is needed for liver cancer treatment
- Oncology nurse navigators who guide you through your cancer care — from diagnosis through survivorship
- Access to clinical trials offering potentially promising cancer treatments not available to the general public
Patients travel across the country to receive liver cancer or bile duct cancer treatment from our experts. Our specialized team, including renowned transplant surgeons, offer treatment options not found everywhere.
About Liver Cancer & Bile Duct Cancer
What Causes Liver Cancer & Bile Duct Cancer?
Although the exact causes of liver and bile duct cancer are unknown, there are several factors that may increase the risk of developing these cancers, including:
- HIV infection
- Exposure to asbestos, radioactive chemicals or dioxin, nitrosamines or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
- Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Certain inherited liver diseases, including hemochromatosis and Wilson's disease
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease – fat accumulation in the liver
- Aflatoxin exposure – poisons produced by molds that grow on poorly stored crops, including corn and peanuts
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis – bile ducts inflammation (cholangitis) that leads to scar tissue formation (sclerosis)
- Bile duct stones
- Choledochal cysts – bile-filled sacs connected to the bile ducts
- Liver fluke infections – occur in some Asian countries after people eat raw or poorly cooked fish infected with these parasite worms. These fluke live in the bile ducts and can cause bile duct cancer
- Abnormalities where the bile and pancreatic ducts meet
- Polycystic liver disease (PLD or PCLD) – a rare condition causing cysts to grow throughout the liver
- Caroli syndrome – dilation of the intrahepatic bile ducts at birth
- Inflammatory bowel disease, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
What Are the Symptoms of Liver Cancer & Bile Duct Cancer?
Liver cancer and bile duct cancer symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Appetite loss
- Upper abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal swelling
- Yellow discoloration of skin and whites of eyes (jaundice)
- Stool discoloration
- Dark urine
Keep in mind that these symptoms can also indicate conditions other than liver cancer. Contact your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms so the cause can be diagnosed and treated promptly.
What Are the Types of Liver Cancer & Bile Duct Cancer?
Several different types of cancer can develop in the liver. The primary types are:
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) – the most common type of liver cancer, which begins in the cells that make up the liver’s main tissue (hepatocytes). HCC sometimes starts as a single tumor and spreads to other parts of the liver, or it may develop as nodules at several different places in the liver.
- Angiosarcoma – a rarer form of liver cancer that occurs in the cells that line the walls of blood vessels or lymphatic vessels
Bile duct cancer, which is also called cholangiocarcinoma, is classified as one of three types, based on where in the bile duct the cancer forms:
- Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma – develops in the smaller bile duct branches inside the liver
- Perihilar cholangiocarcinoma – develops where the left and right hepatic ducts join and leave the liver
- Distal cholangiocarcinoma – found closer to the small intestine and start outside of the liver
How Are Liver Cancer & Bile Duct Cancer Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects liver or bile duct cancer, one or more of the following tests may be recommended:
- Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) blood test – when AFP is found in the blood, it can suggest that liver cancer may be present
- Imaging tests – including ultrasound, CT scan and MRI
- Liver biopsy – a sample of liver tissue is removed for further testing to determine whether cancer is present
How Are Liver Cancer & Bile Duct Cancer Treated?
Our cancer experts work as a team to offer the most advanced liver and bile duct cancer treatment options, including minimally invasive techniques. Our specialized team, including renowned transplant surgeons, often treats patients who have sought care elsewhere.