Precancerous conditions of the bile duct

Precancerous conditions of the bile duct are changes to bile duct cells that make them more likely to develop into cancer. These conditions are not yet cancer. But if they aren’t treated, there is a chance that these abnormal changes may become bile duct cancer. These conditions are found by chance and there is no specific treatment.

Precancerous conditions are caused by changes to cells in the innermost layer of the bile duct. They may be low or high grade, depending on how the cells look under a microscope. If they look like normal cells, they are low grade and there is only a small chance they will become cancer. If the cells don’t look at all like normal cells, they are high grade and there is a greater chance they will become cancer.

Two main types of precancerous conditions in the bile ducts may develop into bile duct cancer:

  • biliary intraepithelial neoplasia
  • intraductal papillary neoplasm of the bile duct

In rare cases, a precancerous condition called mucinous intraductal neoplasia may develop into bile duct cancer.

Expert review and references

  • Bosman FT, Carneiro F, Hruban RH, Theise ND. WHO Classification of Tumours of the Digestive System. 4th ed. Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC); 2010.

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