Last Updated on April 16, 2024

Can I Sue If I've Been Diagnosed with Bile Duct Cancer Late?

Patients may be eligible to sue medical staff if their bile duct cancer is diagnosed late. Bile is a fluid that aids digestion. It is produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Bile ducts are networks of tubes that facilitate the secretion of bile – connecting the gallbladder to both the liver and small intestine.

Bile duct cancers are further categorized based on where tumor originates. The three main types of bile duct cancers are:

  • Intrahepatic bile duct cancer – occurs in the parts of the bile ducts within the liver. It is sometimes classified as liver cancer, as it occurs inside the liver.
  • Perihilar bile duct cancer – occurs in the bile ducts just outside of the liver. It is a type of extrahepatic bile duct cancer (starting outside the liver).
  • Distal bile duct cancer – occurs in the portion of the bile duct nearest the small intestine. It is a type of extrahepatic bile duct cancer (starting outside the liver).

According to the American Cancer Society, around 8,000 patients are diagnosed with bile duct cancer annually in the US. With early detection being a key factor in battling cancer, doctors should prescribe timely screening tests for at-risk patients; consider every symptom exhibited; and provide accurate diagnoses given all medical indicators. Failing to do so constitutes medical malpractice and is punishable by law.

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Bile Duct Cancer Misdiagnosis

Due to the position and size of the bile duct, cancer rarely develops in the area – but is notably challenging to detect should the disease be present. Organs connected to the bile duct – such as the liver, small intestine, and pancreas – are all more likely to develop tumors.

Like in most other cancers, symptoms of bile duct cancer are vague and can be mistaken for other health conditions. In the 2021 Gastrointestinal Cancer Symposium, it was reported that around 35% of bile duct cancer patients are initially diagnosed with another condition. On average, it took healthcare providers another 22 months (after seeing the earliest symptoms) before these patients were accurately diagnosed with bile duct cancer.

Jaundice, abdominal pain, nausea, and weight loss are some common symptoms of bile duct cancer that can be associated with :

While bile duct cancer is relatively challenging to detect early, healthcare providers must expertly navigate these difficulties and ensure that their patients are safe. This is especially true for high-risk patients. Should general practitioners feel that a case is outside of their depth, they can always refer patients to other medical specialists.

Survival Rates and Screening

As provided by the American Cancer Society, the survival rate for bile duct cancer is as follows:

STAGE5-Year Relative Survival Rate
Intrahepatic Bile Duct Cancers
(those starting within the liver)
Localized (Stage 1 or 2)23%
Regional (Stage 3)9%
Distant (Stage 4)3%
Extrahepatic Bile Duct Cancers
(those starting outside the liver)
Localized18%
Regional 18%
Distant 2%

The survival rates for bile duct cancer are noticeably lower when compared to survival rates for other cancer types. As such, it is all the more important for this type of cancer to be detected early – giving patients the best chances to fight the disease.

Delayed diagnoses also hinder timely treatments and medical attention, allowing the disease to progress as a result. Several screening tests may be prescribed by doctors to detect this type of cancer early. Screening tests for bile duct cancer include:

Blood TestsBlood tests can check bilirubin levels, liver function, and tumor markers, which may indicate bile duct problems or cancer.
UltrasoundUltrasound uses sound waves to create images of the abdomen and is usually the first imaging test done if bile duct cancer is suspected.
CT ScanCT scans use x-rays to make detailed cross-sectional images of the body, helping to diagnose bile duct cancer, determine its stage, and guide biopsy procedures.
MRI ScanMRI scans use radio waves and magnets to show detailed soft tissue images, which can help differentiate between benign and cancerous tumors in the bile ducts.
CholangiographyCholangiography specifically images the bile ducts using x-rays (ERCP, PTC) or MRI (MRCP) to identify blockages, narrowing, or dilation.
AngiographyAngiography is an x-ray test that looks at blood vessels in and around the liver and bile ducts to assess blood flow and tumor growth.
LaparoscopyLaparoscopy involves inserting a thin tube with a camera through small abdominal incisions to directly view the bile ducts, gallbladder, and liver, aiding in cancer staging and treatment planning.
CholangioscopyCholangioscopy uses a thin fiber-optic tube with a camera, passed through an endoscope during ERCP, to directly view the inside of the bile ducts and obtain biopsy samples.
BiopsyA biopsy involves removing bile duct cells or tissue for microscopic examination to confirm a bile duct cancer diagnosis and can be performed during cholangiography, cholangioscopy, or with a needle inserted through the skin.

Treatments for Bile Duct Cancer

Several treatment options for bile duct cancer. These treatments may be used complementarily or as stand-alone, depending on the development of your disease. Here are some examples:

According to a study provided in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology, bile duct cancer patients spend roughly $7,743 per month on treatments alone – $6,685 on medical services; and $1,058 on prescriptions.

Any medical expenses incurred – past and future – due to medical malpractice should be compensated by liable healthcare providers. 

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Legal Implications and Compensation

Delayed cancer diagnoses result from medical negligences. Various systemic factors (involving doctors, facilities, and patients) ultimately make up such malpractices. Medical malpractice claims aim to identify errors within patient care.

Several key elements must be established before a medical malpractice claim is rendered valid. Through medical malpractice lawyers, patients can legally procure documents relevant to their cases. During your legal team’s initial investigation, you’ll aim to establish the following:

Duty of Care – “Was there an appropriate doctor-patient relationship?
Breach of Duty – “Did your doctor perform poorly based on standards of care?
Causation – “Did your doctor’s actions/inactions directly harm you?
Damages – “What did these errors cost you?

Aside from medical expenses, all other economic and non-economic losses are accounted for when seeking medical compensation. Lost wages, emotional trauma, lower quality of life are only some damages that can also be factored in.

Please refer to our previous wins to gain more insight on legal compensation.

Speak to a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

At the Porter Law Group, we aim to safeguard your family’s best interest. With the help of our trusted medical partners, we investigate each case thoroughly and holistically. Our medical malpractice lawyers are ready to support you anytime.

If you or someone dear has fallen victim to cancer malpractice in New York, please reach out to us for a no-obligation, free case evaluation. You may also contact us at 833-PORTER9 or info@porterlawteam.com to schedule an appointment.

Written By
Michael S. Porter
Personal Injury Attorney
Originally from Upstate New York, Mike built a distinguished legal career after graduating from Harvard University and earning his juris doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He served as a Captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, gaining expertise in trial work, and is now a respected trial attorney known for securing multiple million-dollar results for his clients while actively participating in legal organizations across Upstate NY.
Legally Reviewed on April 15, 2024
Eric C. Nordby
Personal Injury Attorney
Eric, with nearly three decades of experience in personal injury litigation, holds a law degree with honors from the University at Buffalo School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from Cornell University. His extensive career encompasses diverse state and federal cases, resulting in substantial client recoveries, and he actively engages in legal associations while frequently lecturing on legal topics.
This Article Was Professionally Reviewed
This page was Legally Reviewed by Eric C. Nordby on April 15, 2024. Our experts verify everything you read to make sure it's up to date. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have any questions about our content please contact us.
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