DefinitionBy Mayo Clinic staff
Pancreatic cysts are sac-like pockets of fluid on or within your pancreas. The pancreas is a large organ located behind the stomach. It produces hormones and enzymes that help digest food.
Most pancreatic cysts aren't cancerous, and many don't cause symptoms. In fact, many pancreatic cysts technically aren't cysts at all. Called pseudocysts, these noncancerous (benign) pockets of fluids are lined with scar or inflammatory tissue, not the type of cells found in true cysts.
But some pancreatic cysts can be cancerous. Your doctor may want to take a sample of the pancreatic cyst fluid to determine if cancer cells are present.
Sometimes, your doctor may not be able to tell whether a cyst may become cancerous. Your doctor may recommend monitoring the cyst over time for changes in size or shape that may suggest the need to remove it surgically. Some cysts have a low potential for becoming cancerous, and your doctor may recommend watching them carefully.
- Feldman M, et al. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-6189-2..X0001-7--TOP&isbn=978-1-4160-6189-2&about=true&uniqId=229935664-2192. Accessed July 11, 2012.
- Samuelson AL, et al. Endoscopic management of pancreatic pseudocysts. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America. 2012;41:47.
- Megibow AJ, et al. The incidental pancreatic cyst. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America. 2011;49:349.
- Dewhurst CE, et al. Cystic tumors of the pancreas: Imaging and diagnosis. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America. 2012;59:467.
- Khan A, et al. Cystic lesions of the pancreas. American Journal of Roentgenology. 2011;196:W668.
- Habashi S, et al. Pancreatic pseudocyst. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2009;15:38.
- AskMayoExpert. How common are pancreatic lesions? Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- AskMayoExpert. When should patients with pancreatic cystic lesions be referred for subspecialty evaluation? Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- AskMayoExpert. When are patients with mucinous cystic neoplasms considered for operative or interventional procedures? Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.