an x-ray diagram that highlights the location of the pancreas in the body

Do Pancreatic Cysts Increase Your Risk Of Cancer?

The pancreas, which is located below the liver, is a vital organ. It has two main functions: to produce enzymes which help with digestion and to secrete hormones like insulin to regulate metabolism.

It is not unusual for pancreatic cysts to form within the organ. These cysts are balloon-like and filled with fluid, and most of them are benign. This means they are not cancerous and arise from other conditions such as inflammation of the pancreas.

However, a very small number of cysts (less than 1-2 percent) can be considered precancerous, with a minor percentage of them at risk of becoming malignant (cancerous) over time. The way a cyst looks, analysis of what is inside the cyst, and where it forms in the pancreas can all provide information about whether it is potentially cancerous or at risk of developing into pancreatic cancer.

If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cysts, or if you suspect that you may have pancreatic cysts, it is important to seek a diagnosis from a specialist surgeon in order to determine whether or not the cyst is harmful.

Treatments can include performing a biopsy on a cyst, keeping an eye on it with regular scans, or removing it entirely. Birmingham HPB Clinic specialises in the complex treatments of pancreatic cancer.

How to find pancreatic cysts

Pancreatic cysts don’t cause symptoms very often, and they’re sometimes found during an imaging scan for something else. Many findings are accidental and only discovered during treatment or scans for an unrelated abdominal injury.

In some instances, inflamed pancreatic cysts can cause abdominal pain, and could even result in the patient developing jaundice (yellowing of the skin). This is typically dependent on the location and size of the cyst, however. Whether a cyst has been discovered by accident, or if you have symptoms indicative of pancreatic cysts leading to a scan, you should take the growth of a cyst seriously.

Treatment for pancreatic cysts

Pancreatic cysts don’t always need to be removed. Some are benign, and during a routine scan, they can be shown to have no high-risk features. For these types of cysts, a simple follow-up consultation is enough. For low-risk cysts, imaging tests every few months is usually enough. This allows your specialist to see if your cyst is changing over time.

High-risk cysts are often removed, but surgery doesn’t have to be an automatic decision. Consulting with a team of specialists – like those at Birmingham HPB Clinic – will provide you with complete peace of mind that you’re making the right decision.

For more information on scanning for pancreatic cysts and the treatments available, please do not hesitate to contact the team today.