Questions about cysts
If you have any questions about pancreatic cysts, speak to your doctor.
You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our Support Line.
A cyst is a sac filled with fluid. These cysts are usually not cancerous (benign) but some can become cancerous (malignant).
If you have a pancreatic cyst you should be offered a CT and/or MRI/MRCP scan to check that it’s not cancer. You should be referred for surgery if the scan shows that:
Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs) are cysts that are usually not cancerous, although they can become cancerous. IPMNs can develop in the main pancreatic duct (see diagram) or the smaller ducts in the pancreas. They are more common in people over 50.
IPMNs often don’t cause any symptoms and may be found during a scan for another reason. If there are symptoms, these can include tummy pain, weight loss, sickness and jaundice.
Surgery may be an option, but it depends on several things, including the size of the IPMN, how quickly it is growing, and any changes found during monitoring.
Mucinous cystic neoplasms (MCNs) are cysts that are usually not cancerous but can become cancerous. MCNs are usually found in the body or tail of the pancreas. They almost always affect women in their 40s and 50s.
MCNs often don’t cause any symptoms, although some people may have tummy pain or a lump in the tummy. Surgery may be an option, but this depends on several things, including the size of the MCN and how quickly it is growing.
Serous cystadenomas (SCAs) are non-cancerous cysts. They may be found anywhere in the pancreas, and mostly affect women over 50. SCAs often don’t cause any symptoms, and are only found because a person has had a scan for another reason. If they do cause symptoms, these may include tummy pain, a lump in the tummy or, rarely, jaundice.
If there are no symptoms, no treatment is needed. If there are symptoms, surgery may be an option.
Updated: November 2018
Review date: November 2021