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Pancreatic Cysts and Masses

Pancreatic disease can involve the development of abnormal growths including cysts and masses. Pancreatic cysts and masses are two distinct types of abnormalities that can occur in the pancreas.

Pancreatic cysts are abnormal fluid collections either within the pancreas or in the pancreatic ducts. They are very common.

Many are found incidentally when an imaging study is performed for another condition. The management and treatment of pancreatic cysts depend on various factors, including the type, size, location, and presence of worrisome features.

Many cysts cause no symptoms and do not affect pancreatic function. Some symptoms may include abdominal pain, jaundice, nausea and vomiting, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, bloating and changes in bowel movements. These symptoms can indicate pancreatitis or another condition.

Some cysts can contain cancer or have malignant potential and others are benign. However, most cysts never transform into malignant lesions. Still a finding of a pancreatic cyst will require a diagnostic workup with MRI, CT, endoscopic ultrasound, and other tests.

The majority of pancreatic cysts do not require treatment. Most often clinical management will involve surveillance. If the cyst is large it may need to be drained to relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. The goal is to detect the lesions with the highest risk and determine the optimal treatment approach. Your Rockford Gastroenterology Associates expert is best suited to evaluate and recommend the most appropriate course of action for a specific case.

Here are some different types of pancreatic cysts: These are some of the most common types of pancreatic cysts. They are typically identified in middle-aged men and women. These cysts carry a variable risk of malignant progression, depending on certain features and will need careful monitoring or removal.

  • Pseudocysts: Pseudocysts are a common type of pancreatic cyst. They are typically associated with pancreatitis.
  • Serous Cystadenomas: Serous cystadenomas are typically benign cystic lesions. They are more common in middle-aged women and usually do not cause symptoms.
  • Mucinous Cystic Neoplasms (MCNs): MCNs are cystic tumors that have the potential to become cancerous. They are more common in middle-aged women.
  • Solid Pseudopapillary Neoplasms: Solid pseudopapillary neoplasms are rare cystic tumors that primarily affect young women. They have moderate malignant potential.

Pancreatic masses refer to abnormal growths or tumors that develop in the pancreas. These masses can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). The most common type of pancreatic cancer is pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, which accounts for the majority of pancreatic masses.

Pancreatic masses may cause symptoms such as abdominal pain or discomfort, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, digestive problems, back pain, and general fatigue. However, these symptoms are not specific to pancreatic masses and can occur in other conditions as well.  A finding of a pancreatic mass will require a diagnostic workup with MRI, CT, endoscopic ultrasound and other tests. Once a diagnosis is made, the patient may be referred to other specialists such as an oncologist or surgeon for management.

The treatment options for pancreatic masses depend on several factors, including the type and stage of the mass, as well as the patient’s overall health. These may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapies and palliative care.

  • Surgery: Surgical removal of the tumor is often the preferred treatment for localized pancreatic masses. This may involve partial or complete removal of the pancreas (pancreaticoduodenectomy or distal pancreatectomy).
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells and may be used before or after surgery, or in cases where surgery is not feasible.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs can be used to kill cancer cells or slow down their growth. Chemotherapy may be administered before or after surgery or as the primary treatment for advanced cases.
  • Targeted Therapy: Some specific types of pancreatic masses may respond to targeted therapies that interfere with specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.
  • Palliative Care: In cases where the cancer has advanced and cannot be cured, palliative care focuses on providing relief from symptoms and improving quality of life.

It’s important to consult with your Rockford GI doctor who specializes in pancreatic diseases for an accurate diagnosis, personalized treatment options, and ongoing management. They can provide the most appropriate guidance based on the specific characteristics of the pancreatic mass and the individual’s overall health.

Contact Rockford Gastroenterology Associates to schedule a consultation to receive an accurate diagnosis and all your treatment options.

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