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How Common Is A Pancreatic Cyst Or Is It A Rare Problem?

Pancreatic pseudocysts are best defined as localized fluid collections that are rich in amylase and pancreatic enzymes(1).

No specific set of symptoms is pathognomonic of pseudocysts(1).

How Common Is A Pancreatic Cyst Or Is It A Rare Problem?

How Common Is A Pancreatic Cyst Or Is It A Rare Problem?

A pancreatic cyst is a rare phenomenon that almost in all cases goes unnoticed. Only very few and rare cases present with some symptoms.

Pancreatic cysts can also be neoplastic in origin or may turn into a neoplasm later but that is even rarer than the prevalence of pancreatic cysts itself.

According to the research and data collection center in the US, there was a study done on the radiological investigations to look for the pancreatic cysts in the CT scan and was found that about 2.5 % cases have a pancreatic cyst in them. These people were not suffering from any of the symptoms. However, it was seen that the prevalence of pancreatic cysts increased to nearly about 10 percent as the age progressed till 60 – 65 years.(2)

Further data collection on the pancreatic cysts via MRI scan revealed that the prevalence was about 2 to 38 % which was much higher as compared to CT scan. The prevalence also varied in different age groups like below the age of 40 years, the prevalence was about 0.5 percent only whereas in the age groups of 70 – 79 years the prevalence increased to 25 percent and in the age group of above 80 years, prevalence went as high as 37 to 40 percent.

When these radiological investigations were not a common method then it was found by the autopsy data. The autopsy data also supported the fact about the high prevalence in radiological investigations in the higher age groups. The old autopsy data predicted the prevalence of pancreatic cyst in the age group of 70 to 80 years at about 19 % and above 80 years at about 30 % which quite confidently supports the radiological findings.

The good known fact about the pancreatic cysts is that these are mostly very small in size and carry no medical significance. The pancreatic cysts are size greater than 2 cm diameter are found in only 0.8 % cases out of all the cases. This shows that how much nonprogressive and insignificant pancreatic cysts are found incidentally. Another fact about the pancreatic cyst is that the neoplastic conversion of the cyst takes place in about less than 10 % cases of the cysts greater than the size of 2 cm.

Prevalence of Pancreatic pseudocysts is much more than pancreatic cysts but the differentiation is necessary. It can be commonly misdiagnosed because of the location and a very similar presentation. It is common in cases of acute pancreatitis where there is a rupture of the pancreatic duct leading to leakage of contents of pancreatic secretions into the surrounding space and formation of a pseudo sac made of fibrous tissue.

This sac is not a true pancreatic cyst because it is not located in the pancreas and also it doesn’t have a true wall surrounding it.


It is safely concluded that pancreatic cysts are a rare phenomenon with a very low prevalence in symptomatic cases. With the advent of more radiological investigations like computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, etc. there is an increase in the detection rate of pancreatic cysts and the prevalence has gone high. Variation is also seen because of the size of pancreatic cysts as smaller size cysts are often found commonly but cysts greater than 2 cm diameter are found very rarely.

The differentiation of pancreatic cyst from the pseudocyst is very important because it can affect the overall number and can produce a false high prevalence rate of a pancreatic cyst. Usually, the pancreatic cyst is asymptomatic.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 18, 2020

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