The human body is a marvel of nature, a complex system that works in harmony to keep us healthy and active. However, sometimes things can go wrong, such as the development of pancreatic cysts. This article will explore what pancreatic cysts are, their types, how they are diagnosed, and the available treatment options.
What is the Pancreas?
The pancreas is an important organ that sits behind your stomach and in front of your spine. Your gallbladder, liver, and spleen surround your pancreas. The right side of your body contains the head of your pancreas. This narrow organ lies along the first segment of your small intestine, called the duodenum. The left side of your body houses the tail of your pancreas. The pancreas is about 6 inches long. It’s about the length of your hand. The pancreas plays a crucial role in our body, producing hormones like insulin that control blood sugar levels and enzymes that help digest food.
What are Pancreatic Cysts?
Pancreatic cysts are fluid-filled sacs on or in the pancreas. Most pancreatic cysts are discovered during imaging tests for other health issues, as they often cause minimal or no symptoms. However, these cysts range from benign (non-cancerous) pseudocysts to malignant (cancerous and spreading) cysts.
Types of Pancreatic Cysts
Several types of pancreatic cysts include pseudocysts, serous cystadenomas, Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasms (IPMNs), and mucinous cystic neoplasms.
Pseudocysts are the most common type of pancreatic cysts, often developing after an episode of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). They are non-cancerous and may resolve on their own without treatment.
Serous Cystadenomas: These are benign cysts filled with a watery fluid. They are typically harmless and rarely become cancerous.
Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasms (IPMNs): These cysts grow in the pancreatic ducts and can be benign, pre-cancerous, or cancerous. They produce mucus, and their size and location can help doctors determine if they are likely to become cancerous.
Mucinous Cystic Neoplasms are potentially cancerous cysts that often form in the body or tail of the pancreas, typically in women. They are filled with a thick, sticky fluid and have a distinct layer of ovarian-type tissue, which helps in their identification.
Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cysts
Pancreatic cysts are typically diagnosed during imaging tests for other health problems. If a cyst is found, your doctor may recommend further tests to determine its type and whether it's cancerous. These tests may include an endoscopic ultrasound, where a thin tube with a camera and ultrasound device is passed down your throat to your stomach and small intestine, providing images of your pancreas.
Treatment of Pancreatic Cysts
The treatment for pancreatic cysts depends on the type of cyst, its size, and whether it's causing symptoms. Some cysts, like pseudocysts and small serous cystadenomas, may not require treatment and can be monitored with regular imaging tests. However, IPMNs and mucinous cystic neoplasms may need to be surgically removed due to their potential to become cancerous. The type of surgery will depend on the size and location of the cyst. In some cases, a part of the pancreas may be removed, while in others, the entire pancreas may need to be removed.
Conclusion While the presence of a pancreatic cyst can be concerning, it's important to remember that not all cysts are cancerous, and even those with cancerous potential can be effectively managed with regular monitoring and timely treatment. If you have been diagnosed with a pancreatic cyst, it's crucial to have regular check-ups and follow your doctor's advice. Robert Fusco MD Dec 2023
Center For Digestive Health & Nutrition
The Center for Digestive Health & Nutrition is a private medical practice comprised of experienced Gastroenterologists, Nurse Practitioners, and staff members dedicated to preventing and treating digestive disorders. Our physicians have been serving the needs of those in Western Pennsylvania and surrounding areas since 1977, having cared for tens of thousands of individuals with digestive problems. Our mission is to deliver high-quality gastroenterology services efficiently and cost-consciously. We realize the very sensitive nature of GI illness and understand the necessity to provide our services in an environment that stresses patient privacy and confidentiality and where patient satisfaction is the goal. Appointments can be conveniently scheduled online via our website above. Learn more about digestive issues on Instagram @thedigestivetract
DISCLAIMER : The information on this website is to provide general information. The information on this website does NOT reflect definitive medical advice, and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a physician for a consultation and examination regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs as they may signify a serious illness or condition. An accurate diagnosis and treatment plan should only be made by a qualified doctor to exclude a serious condition.