What is a Pancreatic Neoplasm?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 January 2019
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Also known as pancreatic cysts, pancreatic neoplasms are unusual pockets of fluid that develop either in or on the pancreas. In many cases, the pancreatic neoplasms are benign and pose no serious health threat. However, there is the possibility of a malignancy, especially if the cyst exhibits continual growth over a relatively short period of time.

Many people with pancreatic neoplasms never exhibit any outward signs of this type of cyst. There are some signs, however, that indicate the possibility that a neoplasm is developing. Among these potential signs is the appearance of pain in the abdomen that seems to always linger. There may also be a hard area in the upper portion of the abdomen, near the location of the pancreas. Some people find that they experience nausea on a regular basis, sometimes for no apparent reason. In a few situations, there may be some regurgitation as well.


The presence of a pancreatic neoplasm usually does not present a serious health threat. However, there are two situations where the cyst can create a great deal of problems for the individual. One has to do with a rupture of the cyst itself. When a pancreatic pseudocyst breaks open, the trapped fluid spills into the surrounding area. This can be problematic, since the fluid contains enzymes that aid in digestion. Those enzymes can cause a great deal of damage to any blood vessels in the immediate area, leading to massive bleeding in the abdomen.

A second scenario in which a pancreatic neoplasm presents a danger is when the cyst is found to be malignant. The neoplasm may be pancreatic cancer in the early stages and be self-contained. However, there is also a chance that the cancer has already begun to metastasize, spreading cancer cells to surrounding organs as well as other parts of the body. When cancer is suspected, removing the cyst immediately is the usual approach.

There is some difference of opinion as to what can cause a pancreatic neoplasm to develop. Heavy use of alcohol has been linked to a predilection for developing cysts in and on the pancreas. People who are prone to the development of gallstones are also more likely to develop a pancreatic cyst. Physical trauma, such as a direct blow to the abdomen during an accident, can also sometimes trigger the creation of cysts in and on the pancreas.

While a benign pancreatic neoplasm that is not causing any discomfort is likely to receive no treatment other than regular monitoring, cysts that show signs of possible rupture or any degree of malignancy are often treated with the use of surgery. Pancreatic surgery is a relatively straightforward process, especially if the cysts are located on the pancreas rather than being in the walls of the organ. When surgery is used to correct the situation, the potential for a recurrence is extremely low.


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