Pancreatic Cysts

Pancreatic cysts, like other cysts in the body, are small sacs filled with fluid. In the pancreas, a 6-inch organ in the abdomen that aids digestion and regulates blood sugar, most cysts are not cancerous (benign). Some precancerous cysts, however, can become pancreatic cancer.

Because there are close to 30 types of pancreatic cysts, it’s important to identify the type of growth in your pancreas. Your Digestive Health Center doctor can help identify the cyst and determine whether to simply monitor it or if it requires treatment, which could include surgery.

Sacs of fluid that can form in the pancreas, liver or other part of the digestive tract. Cysts usually do not cause any symptoms, but patients can sometimes experience abdominal pain or bowel blockage.


What Causes a Pancreatic Cyst?

It’s not known why most pancreatic cysts develop, though some are attributed to inflammation in the pancreas (pancreatitis). In fact, most are surprise discoveries during an imaging test such as at CT or MRI scan performed for another reason. They can also form because of a hereditary predisposition or result from another condition like pancreatitis or gastrointestinal cancer. Cancer is capable of producing cysts, but most cysts are noncancerous and people live a full life without ever knowing they have them.


Types of Pancreatic Cysts

The most common pancreatic cysts are filled with either a clear, thin fluid (serous) or a thicker mucus (mucinous). A mucus-filled cyst is possibly precancerous and warrants further evaluation.

Two common types of serous cysts:

  • Pseudocyst: These cysts, never cancerous, are caused by pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. An injury to the pancreas can also cause a pseudocyst.
  • Serous cystadenoma: A slow-growing cyst, typically found in women older than age 60, that can abdominal pain and and sensation of fullness if it grows big enough to affect nearby organs.

Two common types of mucinous cysts:

  • Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasm: A tumor in the ducts that link the pancreas to the intestine. Mucus and fluid that accumulate in the cyst are byproducts of significant amounts of protein produced by the cyst. Cancer risk is elevated when the main pancreatic duct is involved.
  • Mucinous Cystic Neoplasm: This rare tumor, found mostly in middle-aged women, usually develops in the body or tail of the pancreas.

Common Symptoms of Pancreatic Cysts

If you have a pancreatic cyst, it’s unlikely you’ll be aware of it. If you do experience symptoms, they might include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • A sensation of a mass in your upper abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

How to Avoid Pancreatic Cysts

To avoid pancreatic cysts, minimize your risk of pancreatitis. Reduce alcohol consumption, eat a low-fat diet, maintain a healthy eight and exercise regularly. And don’t smoke.


Pancreatic Cyst Screenings & Tests/Pancreatic Cyst Treatments

  • CT Scan: This combination of X-ray and computer technology assesses the size and shape of a pancreatic cyst.
  • MRI scan: Detailed images that can detect a possible higher risk of cancer.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound: An endoscope uses sound waves to produce images of the cyst. With an additional endoscope attachment, your doctor can also take a fluid sample from the cyst.
  • Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR): Precancerous and early-stage cancer growths are removed using an endoscope.
  • Endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD): This method achieves what was once possible only with open surgery – removing growths by separating the intestinal lining from the muscle wall.
  • ERCP: Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP, uses two types of tests, an endoscopy and X-ray, to identify and treat abnormalities like a pancreatic cyst. 
  • Endoscopic drainage: Removal of fluid, or an infection, from a pseudocyst using an endoscope.
  • Pancreas resection/Whipple procedure: Removal of cysts in the head of the pancreas. This procedure includes removal of the head of the pancreas, part of the small intestine, the lower part of the bile duct, nearby lymph nodes, the gallbladder and possibly part of the stomach.
  • Distal pancreatectomy: Removal of the tail or part of the body of the pancreas, or both.

Make an Appointment

Call to schedule an appointment with a GI specialist at Hartford Hospital.
Ask your doctor for a referral before you call.

Call 833.431.0004


Meet our Pancreatic Cyst Specialists:

Name Specialties Location
Bliss, Lindsay Ann, MD, MPH 860.246.2071
  • Surgical Oncology
  • General Surgery
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  • Hartford
  • Farmington
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Curtis, David Eugene, MD 860.246.2071
  • Hepatobiliary and Surgical Oncology
  • General Surgery
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  • Hartford
  • Glastonbury
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Dailey, Mark Edward, MD 860.249.6291
  • Hematology / Oncology
  • Internal Medicine
  • Medical Oncology
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  • Hartford
  • Avon
  • Hartford
  • Willimantic
  • Willimantic
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Elias, Rawad, MD 860.249.6291
  • Medical Oncology
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Hematology / Oncology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Hartford
  • Hartford
  • Willimantic
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Giove, Lawrence M., MD 860.246.6647
  • Medical Oncology
  • Hematology / Oncology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Wethersfield
Golioto, Michael John, MD 860.246.2571
  • Gastroenterology
  • Hartford
Hong, Timothy Joonki, MD 860.249.6291
  • Hematology / Oncology
  • Internal Medicine
  • Medical Oncology
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  • Hartford
  • Avon
  • Willimantic
  • Willimantic
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Jo, Kevin Seungho, MD 203.886.0036
  • Gastroenterology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Wallingford
  • Hartford
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Karasik, Michael Steven, MD 860.246.2571
  • Gastroenterology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Hartford
  • Bloomfield
  • Farmington
  • Glastonbury
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Mehendiratta, Vaibhav, MD 860.246.2571
  • Gastroenterology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Hartford
  • Glastonbury
  • Norwich
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Nestler, Jeffry Laurence, MD 860.246.2571
  • Gastroenterology
  • Hartford
  • Farmington
  • Glastonbury
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Rochon, Caroline, MD, FACS 860.972.4219
  • Transplant Surgery
  • General Surgery
  • Hepatobiliary and Surgical Oncology
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  • Hartford
Schipper, Bret Mitchell, MD, FACS, CPE 860.696.2040
  • Surgical Oncology
  • General Surgery
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  • Hartford
  • New Britain
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Serrano, Oscar K., MD 860.972.4219
  • Transplant Surgery
  • General Surgery
  • Hepatobiliary and Surgical Oncology
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  • Hartford
Swales, Colin Thomas, MD 860.972.4262
  • Gastroenterology
  • Internal Medicine
  • Transplant Hepatology
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  • Hartford
Weiser, Jeffrey Steven, MD 860.409.4567
  • Gastroenterology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Farmington
  • Bloomfield
  • Glastonbury
  • Hartford
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Williamson, Jonathan Blair, MD 860.246.2571
  • Gastroenterology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Hartford
  • Bloomfield
  • Farmington
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Digestive Health Center