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Semin Gastrointest Dis. 2001 Apr;12(2):125-32.


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Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatobiology, Center for Basic Research in Digestive Diseases, Mayo Clinic/Foundation/Medical School, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.


Chronic inflammatory disease of the biliary tract predispose to the development of cholangiocarcinoma. For example, the prevalence of cholangiocarcinoma is between 7% to 14% in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis. The diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma is challenging because it is difficult to distinguish benign from malignant strictures. Recently, several advances have helped in the diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma. The serum Ca 19-9 value is a useful adjunct for the diagnosis of malignant stictures in the absence of bacterial cholangitis. The recent development of digital image analysis for assessing biopsy specimens and brush cytology is also useful for the diagnosis of malignant strictures. Positron emission tomography is a new imaging technique that uses 18F fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose to noninvasively assess metabolism in human tissues. Early studies suggest that this technique is sensitive in identifying small bile duct cancers. Thus, the combination of a Ca 19-9 value, digital image analysis, and positron emission tomography scanning have greatly helped in the differential diagnosis of benign from malignant strictures. Management of cholangiocarcinoma is also challenging with limited survival after surgical resection. Recently, we have shown that preoperative chemoirradiation followed by liver transplantation results in prolonged disease-free survival in highly selected patients with early bile duct cancers. Successful treatment outcome of these patients highlights the need for an early diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma using the approaches described above.

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