Pancreatic Cysts : Diagnosis & Treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering

Pictured: William Jarnagin William Jarnagin, Chief of the Hepatopancreatobiliary Service, is part of Memorial Sloan Kettering's multidisciplinary team of experts caring for patients with pancreatic cysts.

Each year, more than 300 people are evaluated at Memorial Sloan Kettering for the treatment of pancreatic cysts. Our team of pancreatic surgeons, gastroenterologists, and radiologists is among the most experienced in distinguishing between benign and precancerous cysts. This information is critical to ensuring that you receive the most-appropriate care, whether it involves surgery or periodic surveillance with imaging technologies.

Our surgeons perform more than 250 operations each year – both conventional open and minimally invasive procedures – to remove pancreatic cysts and cancer. Surgery is highly effective in removing most pancreatic cysts and preventing them from progressing to cancer.  

Fortunately, most patients who are evaluated by our specialists for a pancreatic cyst do not need an operation. Our surgeons have found that the majority of small, asymptomatic cysts can be safely monitored with periodic imaging tests.(1)

To better understand the development and progression of pancreatic cysts, Memorial Sloan Kettering has created a Pancreatic Cyst Registry that contains diagnostic information from many of our patients with this condition. Our researchers are also working to identify biomarkers – measurable substances such as proteins and genes – that will allow doctors to distinguish between benign and precancerous cysts and to help determine whether a precancerous cyst will become malignant. This information could identify appropriate candidates for surgery, guide treatment decisions, and provide reassurance to patients concerned that a pancreatic cyst could increase their risk of pancreatic cancer..