What are pancreatic cysts?
The pancreas is a large organ behind the stomach producing digestive hormones and enzymes that help digest food. A pancreas cyst is a sack of fluid that form on the pancreas. Most pancreatic cysts aren’t cancerous and many don’t cause symptoms.
They are typically detected during imaging testing for another problem. Your doctor might take a sample of the pancreatic cyst fluid to determine if cancer cells are present.
How common are pancreatic cysts?
The pancreatic cyst is the same between men and women. Each year, pancreatic cyst specialists evaluate more than 300 people with this condition. Over time, scientists found that many pancreatic cysts are best left alone and monitored with care, rather than be treated.
However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of pancreatic cysts?
You may not have any symptoms from pancreatic cysts. They are often detected when imaging tests of the abdomen are done for another reason.
When signs or symptoms of pancreatic cysts do occur, they typically include:
- Persistent abdominal pain, which may spread to your back
- A mass or bump you can feel in your upper abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
When should I see my doctor?
Early diagnosis and treatment can stop this condition from worsening and prevent another medical emergency, so talk to your doctor as soon as possible to prevent this serious condition. If you experience fainting, severe abdominal pain, decreased consciousness, weak and rapid heartbeat, vomiting of blood, please seek emergency medical treatment.
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes pancreatic cysts?
There are two major types of pancreatic cysts; pseudocysts (inflammatory cysts) and true cysts (non-inflammatory cysts). Pseudocysts are benign, whereas true cysts can be benign, precancerous, or cancerous.
Pseudocysts often occur after a painful condition in which digestive enzymes become over-active and irritate the pancreas. Pseudocysts can also result from injury to the abdomen, such as from a car accident.
What increases my risk for pancreatic cysts?
Heavy alcohol use and gallstones are risk factors for pancreatitis, and pancreatitis is a risk factor for pancreatic cysts. Moreover, abdominal injury is also a risk factor for pseudocysts.
Diagnosis & Treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How are pancreatic cysts diagnosed?
Pancreatic cysts are diagnosed more often than in the past because thanks to the development of imaging technology. Many pancreatic cysts are detected soon during abdominal scans for other problems. The main obstacle in diagnosis is to determine whether the cyst might become cancerous. These procedures are often used to help with diagnosis and treatment planning:
- Medical history: Previous abdominal injury or pancreatitis might indicate a pseudocyst.
- CT scan: This imaging test can provide more detailed information about the size and structure of a pancreatic cyst.
- MRI scan: This imaging test can highlight subtle details of a pancreatic cyst, including whether it has any components that suggest a higher risk of cancer.
- Endoscopic ultrasound: This test, like MRI, can provide a detailed image of the cyst. Also, fluid can be collected from the cyst for analysis in a laboratory for possible signs of cancer.
The characteristics and location of the pancreatic cyst, with your age and sex, can help doctors pinpoint the type of cyst you have:
- Serous cystadenoma: It can become large enough to displace nearby organs, causing abdominal pain and a feeling of fullness.
- Mucinous cystadenoma: This type is usually situated in the body or tail of the pancreas and occurs most often in middle-aged women. Mucinous cystadenoma is precancerous, which means it might become cancer if left untreated.
- Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm: It is a growth in the main pancreatic duct or one of its side branches. IPMN may be precancerous or cancerous.
- Papillary cystic tumor: This type is usually situated in the body or tail of the pancreas and occurs most often in women younger than 35.
- Cystic islet cell tumor: It is mostly solid but can have cyst-like components. Cystic islet cell tumors are rare.
How are pancreatic cysts treated?
Depending on the type of cyst you have, its size, its characteristics and whether it’s causing symptoms, your doctor will determine what your treatment is
- Watchful waiting: A benign pancreatic cyst, even a large one, can be left alone as long as it isn’t bothering you. Serous cystadenoma rarely becomes cancerous, so it also can be left alone unless it causes symptoms or grows. But all pancreatic cysts should be monitored.
- Drainage: A pancreatic cyst that is causing bothersome symptoms or growing larger can be drained. A small flexible tube (endoscope) is passed through your mouth to your stomach and small intestine. The endoscope is equipped with an ultrasound probe (endoscopic ultrasound) and a needle to drain the cyst. Sometimes drainage through the skin is necessary.
- Surgery: Surgery might be recommended to remove an enlarged pseudocyst or a serous cystadenoma that’s causing pain or other symptoms. Other types of pancreatic cysts generally require surgical removal because of the risk of cancer.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage pancreatic cysts?
There are some useful tips that help you prevent pancreatic cysts:
- Remember to warm up properly before exercise.
- Try to avoid some physical activities that make you feel uncomfortable
- Take time to rest and recover.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Pancreatic cysts. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatic-cysts/basics/prevention/con-20024331. Accessed Mar 12, 2017.
Pancreatic cysts. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/types/pancreatic-cysts. Accessed Mar 12, 2017.
Pancreatic cysts. http://www.healthline.com/health/pancreatic-pseudocyst. Accessed Mar 12, 2017.
Review Date: March 12, 2017 | Last Modified: April 17, 2017