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Are You at Risk for Pancreatic Cysts?
  • Posted November 13, 2021

Are You at Risk for Pancreatic Cysts?

Pancreatic cysts can progress into cancer over time, an expert says, so it's important to identify and monitor patients with these growths.

Located between the stomach and the spine, the pancreas produces enzymes that help digest food and secretes hormones -- such as insulin -- that help regulate metabolism.

About 15% of Americans are believed to have pancreatic cysts, which are small fluid-filled pockets that typically cause no symptoms, according to Dr. Russell Langan, a surgical oncologist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and assistant professor at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J.

"The great majority of pancreatic cysts are found incidentally on imaging studies which are ordered for other reasons," Langan said in a cancer institute news release. "Once identified, we encourage patients and doctors to refer to pancreatic care teams where the characteristics of the cyst, pancreas, family history and other risk factors can all be assessed by a pancreas multidisciplinary team."

Saint Barnabas Medical Center, where Langan is chief of surgical oncology, has created an online platform to identify, track and monitor patients with pancreatic cysts.

There is no sure way to prevent pancreatic cancer, but doctors can help guide people who are at increased risk or detect it early when it can be operated on, according to Langan.

"Many pancreas cancers are unfortunately diagnosed late and have either already spread or are not technically able to be removed," he said. "We believe it is exceedingly important to have heightened awareness of pancreas cancer to attempt to identify cancers at earlier stages or even in the pre-cancerous stage."

More information

The National Pancreas Foundation has more on pancreatic cysts.

SOURCE: Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, news release, Nov. 10, 2021

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