Pancreatic Cysts & Surgery

What is a pancreatic cyst?

Pancreatic cysts are small pockets of fluid that can be found on or inside the pancreas. Pancreatic cysts can be divided into two main groups, non neoplastic or neoplastic cysts. The cause of pancreatic cysts is unknown.

Most pancreatic cysts aren’t cancerous and many don’t cause symptoms. However some pancreatic cysts do become cancerous, so your doctor might take a sample of the cyst liquid to test for cancer cells, or may monitor the cyst over time for changes.

Pancreatic Cyst Diagnosis

Pancreatic cysts do not always present symptoms, and are often detected during abdominal scans for other problems. Pancreatic cysts are identified using a series of tests:

  • CT Scan
  • MRI Scan
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)

Pancreatic Cyst Surgery

Not everybody who presents with pancreatic cysts requires surgery and in fact most people do not need surgery. Some people don’t need any further follow up at all if it can be established the cyst is completely benign but others with certain types of cyst may need ongoing surveillance to make sure your cyst is not changing. Your doctor will decide whether to watch and wait or to proceed with treatment depending on the type of cyst, it’s size, characteristics and whether it is causing any pain or symptoms.

Pancreatic cyst surgery is recommended if the cyst poses a risk of becoming cancerous or is causing pain or other symptoms. There are several surgical techniques available for pancreatic cysts:

  • Whipple’s Procedure – used to remove cysts in the head of the pancreas (in this approach A/Prof Pilgrim would remove the head of the pancreas and potentially parts of other surrounding organs).
  • Distal Pancreatectomy – when pancreatic cysts are located in the left part or tail of the pancreas, the tail of the pancreas is removed.
  • Total Pancreatectomy – the removal of the entire pancreas.
If you have pancreatic cysts or suspect you may have pancreatic cysts and would like to make an appointment to discuss this further you can book online or call our practice on (03) 9509 4811 to make an appointment