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How Dangerous Are Pancreatic Cysts & Are They Contagious?

The frequency of pancreatic cysts in the US population is around 3-15%.(1)

The 5-year survival rate of all stages of pancreatic cancer is only 8%.(2)

How Dangerous Are Pancreatic Cysts?

How Dangerous Are Pancreatic Cysts?

Dangerous Potential Of Different Pancreatic Cystic Lesions:

Pseudocysts make up approximately 80% of all cystic lesions of the pancreas, which are non-neoplastic and considered benign. These arise as a complication of acute pancreatitis in alcoholics, biliary obstruction, or abdominal trauma and on occasions in chronic pancreatitis. These are formed due to leak in the pancreatic ductal system. Pseudocysts may either resolve on their own or can be drained non-surgically, surgically, or endoscopically(3).

Serous Cystic Neoplasm (SCN) is a non-mucin producing cystic neoplasm of the pancreas. They are mostly found in middle-aged women in their 50-60s. They are mostly benign lesions and depending on the degree of dysplastic they can be classified as serious cystadenoma or serous cystadenocarcinoma. Malignant transformation of SCN is rare and to date, only 25 cases of malignancy have been reported. Large SCNs >4 cm can be surgically removed and carry an excellent prognosis.(3)

Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasms (IPMNs) are equally found in men and women both in their 60-70s. They are mostly found in the head of the pancreas and can be divided into 3 duct types, namely, main duct (MD) type, branch duct (BD), and mixed duct type. Their malignant potential is the most and approximately 27.6-68% progress to invasive cancer. However, their prognosis is still better than that of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma with a 5-year survival rate of 40-60%.(2)

Mucinous Cystic Neoplasms (MCNs) are almost always (90-95%) found in premenopausal women in their 40s. They have positive receptors to estrogen and progesterone just like ovarian MCNs. About 17% of the MCNs have the invasive capacity. The 5-year survival for the non-invasive type is 100%; whereas, the invasive type is 26-57% with a total survival rate of 75-93%.

Solid Pseudopapillary Tumors (SPTs) are rare tumors with a low malignancy rate of 8-20%. They occur mostly in women in their 30s affecting the tail or head of the pancreas. They carry an excellent prognosis with a 5-year survival rate of 95-100%.(2)

Cystic Neuroendocrine Tumors (Cystic-NETs) are equally found in men and women in their 40-60s. They can be found either in the neck, body, or tail of the pancreas. Their prognosis is also good after surgical resection with a 5-year survival rate of 92%.(2)

Since pancreatic cancer is one of the most fatal cancers with a 5-year survival rate of around 8% for all the stages and 3% for metastatic cancer. It is important to identify and manage the premalignant lesions earlier so that malignant transformation can be avoided.(2)

Are Pancreatic Cysts Contagious?

In recent years, there is an increase in the detection of pancreatic cysts with the advancement of imaging techniques and increased use of imaging techniques (CT scan and MRIs). The frequency of pancreatic cysts increases with age and its prevalence in the US population is around 3-15%. Pancreatic cysts have a broad classification and generally can be of two types, non-neoplastic and neoplastic, which can further be subdivided into non-mucin and mucin-producing depending on the fluid content of the cyst. It is of grave importance to differentiate between the mucin-producing and non-mucin producing cysts because mucin-producing cysts are mainly premalignant lesions and have a higher chance of developing into cancerous lesions(1). Pancreatic cysts are not contagious since they do not spread from one person to the other.

Different Types Of Pancreatic Cysts

As mentioned above pancreatic cysts can broadly be classified into non-neoplastic and neoplastic and subdivided into mucin-producing and non-mucin producing. These include:

  • Non-neoplastic cysts:
  • Pseudocyst
  • Retention cyst
  • Simple or congenital cyst
  • Neoplastic cysts
  • Mucin producing cystic lesions
  • Mucinous cystic neoplasm (MCN)
  • Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN)
  • Non-mucin producing cystic lesions
  • Solid-pseudopapillary neoplasm (SPN)
  • Serous cystic neoplasm (SCN)
  • Cystic neuroendocrine neoplasm
  • Acinar cell cystic neoplasm
  • Other neoplastic lesions
  • Ductal adenocarcinoma with cystic degeneration(3)


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:December 4, 2020

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