Cystic lesions of the pancreas are common and increasingly detected in the primary care setting. Some patients have a low risk for developing a malignancy and others have a high risk and need further testing and interventions.
Pancreatic cysts may be intraductal mucinous neoplasms, mucinous cystic neoplasms, serous cystadenomas, solid pseudopapillary neoplasms, cystic variations of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas, or 1 of several types of nonneoplastic cysts. Mucinous (intraductal mucinous neoplasm or mucinous cystic neoplasm) lesions have malignant potential and should be distinguished from serous lesions (serous cystadenomas) that are nearly always benign. Symptomatic patients or those having high-risk features on initial imaging (eg, main pancreatic duct dilatation, a solid component, or mural nodule) require further evaluation with advanced imaging, possibly followed by surgical resection. Advanced imaging includes endoscopic ultrasound with cyst fluid analysis and cytology to confirm the type of cyst and determine the risk of malignancy. Small cysts (size <3 cm) in asymptomatic patients without any suspicious features may be observed with serial imaging because the risk for malignancy is low.
Conclusions and Relevance
The management of pancreatic cysts requires risk stratification for malignant potential based on the presence or absence of symptoms and high-risk features on cross-sectional imaging. Because pancreatic cysts are becoming more frequently diagnosed, clinicians should have a systematic approach for establishing a diagnosis and determining which patients require treatment.