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Cholangiocarcinoma staging is a process used by physicians to describe bile duct cancer in standardized terms regarding the size of a tumor and the extent of its spread. After confirming a diagnosis, a physician will study the results of various tests, such as bloodwork, imaging scans and tissue analyses, to assign an appropriate stage to the cancer. While this information is an important consideration in planning a patient’s treatment, cholangiocarcinoma staging is too general to reliably predict any patient’s outcome. This is mainly due to the fact that a patient’s prognosis is dependent on many individual factors that are not taken into account by standardized staging systems.

Most cholangiocarcinoma staging systems use a numerical scale ranging from 1 through 4, with higher numbers corresponding to more advanced cancers. The most widely used system is the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system, which bases the cholangiocarcinoma staging criteria on three key factors:

  • Tumor (T) – The size of the primary tumor
  • Lymph node involvement (L) – The presence of cancer in nearby lymph nodes
  • Metastasis (M) – The extent of cancer spread to distant tissues and organs

A physician will assign a value to each of these three categories, then evaluate the information as a whole to determine an overall bile duct cancer stage. This classification is medically complex; sometimes, more basic terms such as “local,” “locally advanced,” “metastatic” and “recurrent” are used to describe the extent of the cancer.

As part of the cholangiocarcinoma staging process at Moffitt Cancer Center, each patient is thoroughly evaluated by a multispecialty team of bile duct cancer experts, including surgeons, oncologists and other medical professionals. To ensure the best possible treatment approach and quality of life, we consider a patient’s cancer stage in relation to many different circumstances to develop a highly individualized plan, then carefully monitor the patient’s progress and provide ongoing support.

If you’d like to learn more about cholangiocarcinoma staging, the bile cancer experts at Moffitt can explain the statistics and put this information into perspective for you. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. No referrals are necessary.