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Pancreatic Cysts: From Unsuspected Diagnosis to Treatment

Computed tomography (CT) and other modes of imaging, used to analyze the internal structures of various parts of the body, are commonly ordered for a broad range of medical reasons. Sometimes, however, they reveal something unsuspected.

Pancreatic cysts, fluid-filled sacs that form in the pancreas, can be found incidentally when imaging tests are performed for other health reasons. Pancreatic cysts are common and most are benign, but some are much more likely to turn cancerous than others. Identifying which of these cysts could be potentially harmful is extremely important.

“We are developing ways to better analyze these cysts to decide which ones need to be removed and which ones can be monitored,” says Dr. Linda Lee, a therapeutic endoscopist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Dr. Lee specializes in endoscopic ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration, a technique that is used to remove fluid from the cyst for evaluation.

To determine the best treatment for patients with complex cysts, Dr. Lee meets biweekly with other pancreatic specialists at BWH to review individual cases and see patients together as one multidisciplinary team. For patients who require cyst removal, gastrointestinal surgeons at BWH offer a range of advanced, minimally invasive approaches – including robotic surgery – for cyst removal.

“By identifying high-risk pancreatic cysts and treating them, we can help prevent the development of pancreatic cancer,” says Dr. Lee.

If you are concerned about pancreatic cysts, talk with your doctor or visit our webpage for more information about our specialists and services.