Most pancreatic cysts are noncancerous and have no symptoms.
Pancreatic cysts are fluid-filled, sac-like lesions or pockets occurring in the pancreas. Most pancreatic cysts are noncancerous and have no symptoms. They are often found during unrelated imaging tests of the stomach and abdomen
There are three types of pancreatic cysts:
Congenital: These are similar to liver or kidney cysts and are usually left alone unless they produce symptoms or malignancy becomes a concern.
Pseudocysts: The most common type of pancreatic cyst, these noncancerous pockets of fluid are lined with scar or inflammatory tissue, rather than the epithelial cell lining normally found in other cysts. Pseudocysts are often a byproduct of pancreatitis, a painful condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. Pseudocysts also may result from heavy alcohol use, gallstones and injury to the abdomen, such as from a car accident.
Cystic neoplasm: Although less common, these are increasingly being discovered on unrelated radiological studies of the abdomen. While fewer than 10 percent are malignant, these cystic lesions range from benign to premalignant/borderline to malignant and can be classified into four major categories:
- Solid pseudopapillary tumor: This relatively rare pancreatic tumor is slow-growing and is commonly seen in women from their late 20s to early 40s.
- Serous cystadenoma: Upon diagnosis, these relatively benign pancreatic lesions can be monitored by your physician if you have no symptoms. However, if the cysts increase in size and/or cause pain or a sense of fullness they may require treatment. Some serous cystadenomas may even obstruct the bile ducts or cause jaundice or pancreatitis.
- Mucinous cystadenoma: These precancerous lesions are usually found in the body or tail of the pancreas, commonly in middle-aged women. They have a higher risk of becoming malignant with an increase in size.
- Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasms (IPMN/IPMT): These are tumors within the pancreatic ducts which, like polyps in the colon, may progress to invasive cancer if left untreated. These can arise from the main duct or the side branches of the pancreas. Involvement of the main duct has a 60 percent chance of turning cancerous.
You may not experience any symptoms from pancreatic cysts, including pseudocysts. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- Persistent abdominal pain radiating to your back
- Feeling a mass your upper abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty eating and digesting food