Pancreatic cysts are pockets of fluid that form a sac within the pancreas. They sometimes have the appearance of a mass when seen on an X-ray or scan of the abdomen. Pancreatic cysts are often non-cancerous but require evaluation to ensure that they do not represent cancer or a pre-cancerous condition. Malignant or premalignant pancreatic cysts may require treatment including surgery. Some non-cancerous pancreatic cysts also require surgery when they cause symptoms.
The tests used to evaluate pancreatic cysts include CT scans, MRI, endoscopic procedures, biopsies and lab tests. Treatment for pancreatic cysts depend on the on the type of cyst and the symptoms it causes.
Pancreatic cysts often do not cause symptoms and may be found when X-rays or scans of the abdomen are done for reasons unrelated to the cyst. The symptoms they can cause include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. When these symptoms accompany a diagnosis of a pancreatic cyst, one should seek medical evaluation.
What to Expect
Patients diagnosed with a pancreatic cyst without evidence of cancer are cared for in the Pancreatic Cyst Clinic, where patients are evaluated and treated by MD Anderson specialists with specific expertise in the care of pancreatic cysts. We will continue evaluation on a regular basis, even when there is no evidence of cancer from previous tests.
While receiving care in the Pancreatic Cyst Clinic, we will:
- Review your recent medical history and perform a physical exam
- Perform tests to determine if your pancreatic cyst is changing in size or other characteristics
- Monitor for development of new symptoms
- Create a treatment summary and follow-up care plan
- Provide information and referrals related to endoscopic evaluation, nutrition, healthy lifestyle behaviors, and resources at MD Anderson or in the community
The outcome of your tests will be explained to you and treatment options will be discussed.
The physician who initially saw you as a new patient will remain involved in your care. If you develop symptoms or changes in the nature of your pancreatic cyst while you are a patient in the Pancreatic Cyst Clinic, it may be necessary to be referred back to the MD Anderson surgical or gastroenterology clinic where you were initially seen.
The Pancreatic Cyst Clinic accepts referrals of MD Anderson patients initially seen in the Gastrointestinal Center.
If you want a referral to our clinic, please speak to your MD Anderson doctor or nurse.