Soul Singer Sharon Jones Cancels Tour Due to Cancer Diagnosis

Soul singer Sharon Jones has been forced to cancel her current tour because of illness.

The 57-yr-old singer, who is the lead singer of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, was just diagnosed with Stage 1 bile duct cancer.

The group had recently began touring in anticipation of the release of their fifth album Give the People What They Want, on August 6. Both the tour and album release are now postponed.

In a statement, Jones explained:

Over the last few weeks I haven’t felt good and I didn’t know what was going on…. We just found out that I have a stage-one tumor on my bile duct. Luckily we caught it really early and fast and the doctors say it’s operable and curable! I will be having surgery very soon and will have to rest and recover.

Her website explains that due to the “invasive and complex nature” of the surgery, she will require “a rather lengthy convalescence”.

In the meantime, you might enjoy hearing the first single off the album, called Retreat.

What is bile? What do the bile ducts do?

Bile is a thick yellow-green digestive fluid which contains primarily cholesterol, bile acids (also called bile salts), and bilirubin (a breakdown product of red blood cells). It also contains water and body salts (potassium and sodium).It’s function is to break down fats into fatty acids which can be absorbed by the body.

Bile is produced by cells in the liver and flows through small tubes (ductules) which run throughout the liver. These small tubes come together to form larger tubes (ducts) and eventually form the right and left hepatic ducts. These exit the liver and form into a common hepatic duct. About one third of the way along the length of the bile duct, the gallbladder (a small organ that stores bile between meals) attaches by a small duct called the cystic duct and forms the common bile duct. The common bile duct passes through part of the pancreas before it empties into the first part of the small intestine (the duodenum), next to where the pancreatic duct also enters the small intestine (see diagram).


What is Bile Duct Cancer?

Bile duct cancer is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the ducts that are outside the liver.

Having colitis or certain liver diseases can increase the risk of bile duct cancer.

Possible signs of bile duct cancer include jaundice and pain.

These and other symptoms may be caused by bile duct cancer or by other conditions:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes)
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Fever
  • Itchy skin

After extrahepatic bile duct cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the bile duct or to other parts of the body. This will determine what kind of treatment options are available.

Three types of standard treatment are used:


The following types of surgery are used to treat bile duct cancer:

  • Removal of the bile duct: If the tumor is small and only in the bile duct, the entire bile duct may be removed. A new duct is made by connecting the duct openings in the liver to the intestine. Lymph nodes are removed and viewed under a microscope to see if they contain cancer.
  • Partial hepatectomy: Removal of the part of the liver where cancer is found. The part removed may be a wedge of tissue, an entire lobe, or a larger part of the liver, along with some normal tissue around it.
  • Whipple procedure: A surgical procedure in which the head of the pancreas, the gallbladder, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, and the bile duct are removed. Enough of the pancreas is left to make digestive juices and insulin.
  • Surgical biliary bypass: If the tumor cannot be removed but is blocking the small intestine and causing bile to build up in the gallbladder, a biliary bypass may be done. During this operation, the gallbladder or bile duct will be cut and sewn to the small intestine to create a new pathway around the blocked area. This procedure helps to relieve jaundice caused by the build-up of bile.
  • Stent placement: If the tumor is blocking the bile duct, a stent (a thin tube) may be placed in the duct to drain bile that has built up in the area. The stent may drain to the outside of the body or it may go around the blocked area and drain the bile into the small intestine. The doctor may place the stent during surgery or PTC, or with an endoscope.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.


Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body ( systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas ( regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

For more information, click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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