Cysts are a normal part of our physiological makeup and are typically not life threatening health complications. In adults who have been diagnosed with pancreatic complications, the development of pancreatic cysts may be the pre-cursor to far greater health complications for which aggressive medical treatment is needed. If your doctor has diagnosed you with pancreatic cysts, it is important to understand not only how the cysts will be treated in the short term, but also what you can expect from long term outcomes.
Pancreatic cysts, in most cases, are not cancerous and can be removed without further health complications. But, once diagnosed with pancreatic cysts, of any type, your doctor will consider you to be a high risk patient for which regular testing and management of your pancreas must be done. While pancreatic cysts are common in both men and women, the types of cysts that develop are quite different and, therefore, the long term risks for cancer can be different as well.
Once diagnosed with a pancreatic cyst, the first question to be asked is what type of cyst you have developed. Typically, there are four types of cysts you may be diagnosed with, and that diagnosis will help you determine your long term outcomes. The best outcome you can expect, initially, is to be diagnosed with a serous cystadenoma which is the least likely to become cancerous in the future.
Once your pancreatic cyst is removed, your doctor may recommend a course of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, even if your cyst is not cancerous. This type of treatment is typically recommended to diminish the risk for developing cancer at a later date should the precancerous cells become malignant. This type of treatment should not be alarming as it is protocol for almost all types of pancreatic cysts.
Over the long term, most adults who develop pancreatic cysts are not at risk for developing cancer any more than any other cystic complication, including the risks associated with a dermoid ovarian cyst. However, because you have a cyst at one time, you should be tested every six months to monitor the pancreas for future complications. By catching any new cysts early, you are working to prevent any precancerous cyst cells from becoming cancerous at a later date.
Pancreatic cysts and pancreatic cancer are a challenge to treat. Ultimately, the earlier a cyst is identified, removed, and treated, the better your outcomes from a long term pancreas health perspective.
Sources: Standards in Pancreatic Surgery, by Hans Georg Berger