Pancreatic Cysts Can Be Cancerous,
Pre-Cancerous or Benign
The term "cyst" can be frightening. The good news is most pancreatic cysts are benign and not cancerous. The scary part is that about 20% of cysts in the pancreas can be cancerous or precancerous. More and more of them are diagnosed today than in the past. Not because they are more prevalent, but due to more advanced imaging technology. Frequently, evidence of pancreatic cysts are discovered somewhat accidentally during abdominal area scans for other medical reasons.
What Are Pancreas Cysts?
There are differing types of pancreatic cysts. Many are technically not cysts at all, but pockets of noncancerous fluid with inflammatory or scar tissue. Cysts found in the pancreas can fall into the following categories:
- Serous Cystadenoma. These are rarely cancerous, but can become large enough to cause abdominal pain and a feeling of fullness. Fortunately, most discovered pancreatic cysts are of this type.
- Mucinous Cystadoma. Typically located in the tail or body of the pancreas, They can be precancerous and could already be cancerous. The larger the cyst is, the more likely it is cancerous.
- Mucinous Duct Ectasia. This type is most often found in the head of the pancreas and is most common in men. It is usually precancerous or is already cancerous when discovered.
- Papillary Cystic Tumor. Most common among women, they are typically located in the body or tail of the pancreas. They are generally cancerous.
The Type of Cyst or Tumor
A doctor or radiologist may initially determine whether or not a cyst is benign, cancerous or precancerous based upon certain indicators such as size, location, characteristics and even the patient's sex. The doctor may want to take a sample of the cyst fluid to determine whether cancer cells are present.
Most cysts are benign and usually do not need surgical removal. If the tumor is malignant and its cancerous cells have not spread beyond the pancreas, surgical removal is necessary. Cysts that are precancerous, which if left unabated, will likely lead to cancer, must also be removed.
Based upon many factors, medical professionals will determine the course of any surgery and treatment.
A Must Read Article
Click this link and read this success story titled "Doctors Aim To Stop Pancreatic Cancer Before It Forms" published by the Baltimore Sun.
It is about Paula Rhimes that had an early cancerous tumor removed at Johns Hopkins. A cyst was discovered during screening before having her gallbladder removed in 2006. Not deeming it dangerous, her doctors watched the cyst over the years. When it started growing, they still did not think it was dangerous but advised her to seek a second opinion.
During web research, Paula chose Johns Hopkins Pancreatic Cancer Center for that second opinion. A round of tests were performed including an MRI, a CT scan, endoscopy and a biopsy.
It turned out to be a second opinion that exposed problems that probably saved her life. The Johns Hopkins team found the results concerning and recommended surgery almost immediately. In March of 2011, she had the Whipple surgery where the head of the pancreas and the tumor, the small intestine and a common bile duct was removed.
Johns Hopkins confirmed the pancreatic cyst was of the type that grows within the pancreatic ducts and most often eventually develops into cancer of the the pancreas. According to Paula Rhimes, "This would have turned into something not good, but they took care of things before it became too late".
Do yourself a favor and read the rest of the story.
Seena Magowitz Pancreatic Cancer Foundation does not intend to provide specific medical advice. It only provides general information to help users better understand their health. SMF urges all users to always consult with qualified physicians for any diagnosis or answers to specific questions.