Despite overall advances in the ability to diagnose and treat patients with cholangiocarcinoma, the prognosis for patients with this malignancy remains poor. Further improvements in the survival of patients with cholangiocarcinoma will come with the early diagnosis of these lesions. New molecular techniques should improve the ability to screen high-risk patients, such as those with primary sclerosing chollangitis, hepatolithiasis, choledochal cysts, and ulcerative colitis. Improvements in imaging will continue, and spiral CT scanning, duplex ultrasonography, MR imaging and, perhaps, PET scans will improve the ability to stage patients with cholangiocarcinoma noninvasively. Complete surgical resection remains the only curative treatment for malignancies of the biliary tract. Aggressive surgical approaches are likely to continue, and the challenge remains in being able to perform these procedures safely in jaundiced and sometimes septic patients. For patients with unresectable lesions, the optimal form of palliation, whether surgical or nonsurgical, remains to be defined. Finally, multicenter, prospective, randomized trials of chemoradiation need to be performed to delineate an effective adjuvant therapy more precisely, and to improve the overall prognosis of patients with cholangiocarcinoma.
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