How Fast Do Pancreatic Cysts Grow & When Should They Be Removed?

Pancreatic cysts can grow in size from several millimeters to several centimeters and their growth rates are between 2mm and 5mm annually.1

Pancreatic cysts grow because of pancreatitis, an infection of the pancreas. If the cysts grow in size and develop symptoms, the patient will be assessed using endoscopic ultrasound.2

Your healthcare provider can effectively remove a pancreatic cyst through surgery before they get larger than 10 millimeters.3 4

How Fast Do Pancreatic Cysts Grow?

Pancreatic cysts can grow in size from several millimeters to several centimeters and their growth rates are between 2mm and 5mm annually. Pancreatic cysts grow because of pancreatitis, an infection of the pancreas. If the cysts grow in size and develop symptoms, the patient will be assessed using endoscopic ultrasound.

If a branch duct-intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm grows at a rate of 5 mm or more every year, it almost doubles in size and becomes 10mm or higher and regarded as the most worrying characteristic which posses an increased probability of cancer-based on a medical study.1

According to experts, most cases of duct-intraductal papillary are suggested for surveillance imaging. Based on the growth over time, the results may help make a better prediction of malignancy. A study was conducted on 240 patients whose pancreatic cysts did not develop rapidly however with a steady progression. The study was done for a total of 56 months using 4 different types of imaging studies.

The study demonstrated that 3.2 percent of these patients developed malignancy and the growth rate was 18.6 mm annually when compared to the benign form which progressed 0.8mm annually. Similarly, pancreatic pseudocyst necessitates treatment when they persist six weeks or more especially after chronic pancreatitis. During such instances, they grow large and develop an obstruction in the stomach or common bile duct causing acute pain and inflammation.

Even small pancreatic cysts can grow in size and become cancerous; hence they should be monitored for malignancy.2

When Should Pancreatic Cysts Be Removed?

Since pancreatic cysts normally are asymptomatic and because pancreatic malignancy can proliferate rapidly, ascertaining whether or not cysts are pre-cancerous or cancerous is essential particularly if an individual is experiencing pain in the abdomen, infection or other risk factors. The earlier and more frequent removal of certain pancreatic cysts can minimize the risk of pancreatic cancer in the later stage.

A research was conducted by John Hopkins medicine on 901 adults who underwent surgery for a certain type of pancreatic cyst. The findings strongly suggest that removing so-called intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms as soon the cyst is enlarged more than 5mm annually has prevented potential cancers before they became malignant.

A vast major of pancreatic cysts are non-cancerous that develop no symptoms but at the same time, some can cause significant infection and damage to the intraductal papillary and enlarges the duct, so removal is advisable as suggested by your doctor.3, 4

The rate of incidence of pancreatic cyst has increased lately due to the widespread use of cross-section imaging. It can be either neoplastic or non-neoplastic, most non-neoplastic conditions are asymptomatic however their effects are significant and require resection.

According to Tamas A. Gonda, MD, Director of Endoscopic Research in the Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases, pancreatic cysts are easily detectable precancerous growths and develop potential chances for pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic lesions are noticed among 5-20 percent of people in the United States suffering from pancreatic cysts.

References:

  1. “Rapid Growth Rates of Pancreatic Cyst BD-IPMNs Can Predict Malignancy.” Healio, www.healio.com/news/gastroenterology/20150518/rapid-growth-rates-of-pancreatic-cyst-bdipmns-can-predict-malignancy.
  2. Jay W. Marks, MD. “Pancreatic Cysts: Symptoms, Causes Types & Management.” MedicineNet, MedicineNet, 4 Sept. 2018, www.medicinenet.com/pancreatic_cysts/article.htm.
  3. “Pancreatic Cysts.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 28 Feb. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatic-cysts/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20375997.
  4. “Earlier, More Frequent Removal of Some Pancreatic Cysts May Decrease Cancer Risk for Some Patients.” Johns Hopkins Medicine Newsroom, 14 May 2019, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/newsroom/news-releases/earlier-more-frequent-removal-of-some-pancreatic-cysts-may-decrease-cancer-risk-for-some-patients.

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