Being told you have a cyst in your pancreas can be scary and unsettling. Usually this kind of growth is harmless and doesn’t need to be removed or actively treated in any way.
Still, it’s important to monitor the cysts carefully over time, since they sometimes do progress to a point where it’s best to surgically remove them. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, we’ve developed a Pancreatic Cyst Surveillance Program to safely and systematically monitor cysts in the pancreas.
As a participant in this program, you’ll regularly see your doctor as well as our dedicated nurse practitioner to help you best manage your health.
Surgery for a Pancreatic Cyst
Sometimes it’s best to remove a cyst through surgery. The following are possible reasons:
- The cyst is larger than 3 cm in size.
- The cyst has a solid component.
- The main draining system of the pancreas — referred to as the pancreatic duct — is widened, or dilated.
- The cyst is growing and causing pain or pressure on other structures such as the bile duct.
Although these developments may not exist when you’re first diagnosed with a pancreatic cyst, they can develop over time — which is part of why being followed in a formal Pancreatic Cyst Surveillance Program can be so important.
When helping you decide between surgery and surveillance, we carefully consider the risk that your cyst contains cancer or could progress to cancer. Pancreatic surgery is also a major, physically demanding operation because of where the organ is located. Cysts in the pancreas can’t be simply drained or aspirated (suctioned out).
Your MSK team — experts nationally recognized for their leadership in evaluating and treating pancreatic cysts — will consider various factors to customize a plan of care that best fits your needs.