Pancreatic cysts are fluid-filled cavities in the pancreas. They are usually benign, but some have the potential to become pancreatic cancer. NewYork-Presbyterian has one of the largest pancreatic cyst surveillance clinics in the country, offering periodic monitoring of potentially precancerous cysts and minimally invasive treatment for cysts that cause pain and discomfort.
Causes of pancreatic cysts
The causes of most pancreatic cysts are unknown. Some are related to rare genetic illnesses such as von Hippel-Lindau disease. Pseudocysts (collections of pancreatic juice encased in tissue inside or around the pancreas) occur most commonly after an episode of pancreatitis or abdominal injury.
Types of pancreatic cysts
There are different types of pancreatic cysts, such as:
- Serous cystadenomas
- Mucinous cystadenomas
- Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN)
- Cystically degenerated pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors
Signs & Symptoms of Pancreatic Cysts
Some pancreatic cysts cause no symptoms. Others may cause:
- Abdominal pain
- A mass that can be felt in the abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Reduced appetite
Diagnosing Pancreatic Cysts
Our doctors are experts in the assessment of pancreatic cysts. Some of the tools we use are not widely available elsewhere.
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) using a special endoscope with high-energy sound waves ("echoendoscope") to see your pancreas and the pancreatic duct.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), which combines endoscopy and x-rays to see the structure of your pancreas and any abnormalities. NewYork-Presbyterian’s interventional endoscopists routinely perform this procedure and are highly regarded experts in its use.
- Pancreatoscopy is a way to directly visualize the pancreatic duct.
- Confocal imaging. NewYork-Presbyterian is one of few hospitals offering this highly specialized approach, which involves the use of a small microscope to analyze cells to determine if they are normal or precancerous. Tissue may be immediately removed through the endoscope for further examination.
Our Approach to Care
Your healthcare team includes gastroenterologists, surgeons, interventional endoscopists, pathologists, radiologists, award-winning nurses, and others with experience monitoring and treating people with pancreatic cysts. Your team will assess your health and customize a plan of care that meets your individual needs.
Pancreatic cyst treatment and surveillance
Most pancreatic cysts are found accidently, and many will just need to be followed with repeat imaging at intervals determined by the cyst's characteristics.
Surgery. We have surgeons on our team who specialize in the treatment of pancreatic cysts.
Ablation destroys diseased tissue either by injecting alcohol into the cyst cavity or by inserting a probe to apply radiofrequency ablation, which we perform using an endoscopic (nonsurgical) approach.
Surveillance. If you have a pancreatic cyst or an intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm that places you at increased risk of pancreatic cancer, we offer assessment, monitoring, and treatment through the Pancreatic Cyst Surveillance Programs at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
Care for pancreatic pseudocysts. Some pseudocysts improve on their own, and those that are not causing symptoms may not need to be treated. We are able to drain many symptom-causing pseudocysts via echoendoscopy. The endoscopist uses a stent to drain the pseudocyst by connecting it to an adjacent intestinal organ. if the pseudocyst cannot be drained using endoscopy, a minimally invasive surgical approach called VARD (videoscopic-assisted retroperitoneal debridement) may be performed.
Why Choose Us
You can receive the most advanced care at NewYork-Presbyterian's dedicated pancreas care centers. Our experts have superior knowledge and expertise in the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of pancreatic cysts. Through our surveillance programs, we take a full personal and family medical history and perform a comprehensive examination, imaging tests, and biopsies. If you don’t need treatment right away, we’ll continue to see you every six months or once a year, depending on your needs. We are here for you, offering whatever care you need. Contact us to make an appointment.