Cholangiocarcinoma

Cholangiocarcinoma (pronounced ko-lan-geo-car-sin-o-ma) is the medical name given to bile duct cancer.
According to the Irish Cancer Society, around 200 people are diagnosed with bile duct cancer in Ireland each year. Typically, if affects people over 65.

Cholangiocarcinoma

Cholangiocarcinoma (pronounced ko-lan-geo-car-sin-o-ma) is the medical name given to bile duct cancer.
According to the Irish Cancer Society, around 200 people are diagnosed with bile duct cancer in Ireland each year. Typically, if affects people over 65.

What is cholangiocarcinoma?

There are many resources online that explain cholangiocarcinoma, but my advice is to resist the temptation to Google it; the search results aren’t for the faint hearted!

To understand cholangiocarcinoma, it’s important to understand what the bile ducts are, and how they work. Bile ducts are small tubes that transport bile, a fluid made by the liver that helps with digestion. Think of it as a kind of “digestive juice” that helps break down fats.

Cholangiocarcinoma, or bile duct cancer occurs when abnormal cells begin to grow in the bile ducts. As these abnormal cells grow, they can lead to blockages or obstructions, disrupting the normal flow of bile. As a result, the bile builds up, causing various symptoms and affecting the liver’s ability to function properly. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), abdominal pain, fatigue and unexplained weight loss can be signs of bile duct cancer.

How is cholangiocarcinoma treated?

Treatment for cholangiocarcinoma depends on a range of factors, such as where the cancer is located, if it can be successfully operated in, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

In my specific case, the recommended treatment for now, considered the first line of treatment in the European Union for cholangiocarcinoma, is a combination of the immunotherapy drug durvalumab (Imfinzi ®), which is manufactured by Astra Zeneca, and chemotherapy (gemcitabine plus cisplatin). Unfortunately, at this time, the HSE will not cover the cost of this treatment in Ireland for cholangiocarcinoma, although it is approved for use in Europe (find out more about that here).

What extra support is available to people with cholangiocarcinoma?

We are really lucky in Ireland to have excellent support services for people and their families going through cancer. We have been very fortunate to have the support of Cancer Care West, located in Galway, which provides access to psychologists, counsellors, oncology nurses and other qualified cancer support specialists to help manage the psychological and emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis. We are deeply grateful to the team at Cancer Care West for all they have done for us so far.

How do you speak to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer?

It can be hard to know what to say to someone who has a cancer or serious illness diagnosis. But don’t be afraid to say hello! I am still the same person I was before cholangiocarcinoma, and I love to have a chat more than ever! Don’t be afraid to ask how I am, what I’m working on right now, and whether I’ve caught up on the soccer (the answer will be always be a resounding yes!).

While a cancer diagnosis is devastating, life goes on. Marian and I want to know what you’re up to, how your family is doing, if you’ve any trips planned, and what you’re latest Netflix recommendations are!

Life goes on for our boys too. Ask them what they’ve been doing and focus on the now, rather than talking about what could happen in the future. They have some exciting “firsts” coming up soon, with Eoin starting secondary and Joey going into Junior Infants, and we’re keen to help our three boys enjoy every minute they can.

If you want to know how you can help us with our fight against cholangiocarcinoma, you can find out more here.