When cysts in pancreas occur, they can disrupt the function of the pancreas and if unchecked, may turn cancerous.
Types of pancreatic cysts
There are two types of pancreatic cysts, pools of fluid within the tissue of the pancreas, and they are:
• Pseudocysts (inflammatory cysts) do not contain specialised lining cells but contain pancreatic digestive juices
• True cysts (non-inflammatory cysts) are lined by a special layer of cells responsible for secreting fluid into the cysts
Though rare, a cyst can become infected or may rupture. See a doctor if you have a persistent fever and abdominal pain. Seek emergency medical treatment if:
- The pain becomes severe
- There is dizziness/faintness/ loss of consciousness
- The heartbeat becomes weak and rapid
- There is vomiting of blood
These cysts can range in size from several millimetres to several centimetres. While pancreatic cysts are mostly small, benign and produce no symptoms, they can become large and cause symptoms such as tummy or back pain, jaundice when the cysts obstruct the bile duct. Some are cancerous or can become cancerous.
No one knows why pancreatic cysts occur, and some are cancerous or can become cancerous. While cancerous cysts may be due to genetic mutations, pseudocysts may form after trauma or infection of the pancreas, fever, chills, and sepsis due to infected cysts.
The best way to avoid pseudocysts is to avoid pancreatitis, usually caused by gallstones or excessive alcohol use. In the case of gallstones, removal will reduce the occurrence of pancreatitis. If due to alcohol, reduction or cessation of drinking will reduce the risk of reoccurrence.
While a cyst that does not exhibit symptoms can be left alone and monitored for any changes in size, one that does or grows larger should be drained. This can be done by various means, from endoscopic drainage to laparoscopic or open surgery, depending on the type and location of the cyst. If you have a pancreatic cyst, treatment will depend on the type of cyst, its symptoms and whether it is benign or malignant. Treatment is important to deal with precancerous or cancerous cysts, to prevent cancer from developing or spreading. In these cases, the patient will be carefully evaluated for suitability for surgery.