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Cholangiocarcinoma is a cancer of the bile ducts, which drain bile from the liver into the small intestine. It is a relatively rare cancer, with an annual incidence of 1–2 cases per 100,000 in the Western world, but rates of cholangiocarcinoma have been rising worldwide over the past several decades. Risk factors for cholangiocarcinoma include primary sclerosing cholangitis (an inflammatory disease of the bile ducts), congenital liver malformations, infection with the parasitic liver flukes Opisthorchis viverrini or Clonorchis sinensis, and exposure to Thorotrast (thorium dioxide), a chemical previously used in medical imaging. The symptoms of cholangiocarcinoma include jaundice, weight loss, and sometimes generalized itching. The disease is diagnosed through a combination of blood tests, imaging, endoscopy, and sometimes surgical exploration.
Surgery is the only potentially curative treatment, but most patients have advanced and inoperable disease at the time of diagnosis. After surgery, adjuvant chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be given to increase the chances of cure. Patients with advanced and inoperable cholangiocarcinoma are generally treated with chemotherapy and palliative care measures. Areas of ongoing medical research in cholangiocarcinoma include the use of newer targeted therapies (such as erlotinib) and the use of photodynamic therapy. (More...)
Scheme of semipermeable membrane during hemodialysis. Red = blood, blue = dialysing fluid, yellow = membrane.
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