Most pancreatic cysts are benign, but some are much more likely to turn cancerous than others.

Today, computed tomography (CT) and other imaging tests are commonly ordered for a broad range of medical reasons. Sometimes, however, they reveal something unsuspected – an incidental finding. Among these incidental findings are pancreatic cysts, fluid-filled sacs that form in the pancreas.

Pancreatic cysts are common and many times do not cause symptoms. Most are benign, but some are much more likely to turn cancerous than others.

“We are developing ways to better analyze these cysts to decide which ones need to be removed and which ones can be monitored,” says Dr. Linda Lee, a therapeutic endoscopist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Dr. Lee specializes in endoscopic ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration, a technique that is used to remove fluid from the cyst for evaluation.

To determine the best treatment for patients with complex cysts, Dr. Lee, pancreatic surgeon Dr. Thomas Clancy, and other pancreatic specialists at BWH meet biweekly to review individual cases and see patients together in the only multidisciplinary clinic of its kind in New England. For patients who require cyst removal, Dr. Clancy and other gastrointestinal surgeons at BWH offer a range of advanced, minimally invasive approaches – including robotic surgery – for cyst removal.

“By identifying high-risk pancreatic cysts and treating them, we can help prevent the development of pancreatic cancer,” says Dr. Lee.

If you are concerned about pancreatic cysts, talk with your doctor or visit our webpage for more information about our specialists and services.

– Jessica F.

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