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How Prevalent are Pancreatic Cysts?

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As more patients have undergone imaging examinations for various disorders, physicians have detected pancreatic cysts with increasing frequency. Some cysts become malignant yet many remain asymptomatic. However, the prevalence of pancreatic cysts among healthy individuals has not been established—it is important to determine how common these are, to devise strategies to manage them once they are found.

Koen De Jong et al. performed a methodical assessment of occurrence of cysts among 2804 asymptomatic individuals who chose to have a MRI at their own cost, without referral from a doctor. They discovered pancreatic cysts in 66 of the individuals; prevalence increased with age but did not differ between sexes. Only a few cysts were larger than 2 cm, but none showed features of malignancy. This was one of the first studies to use such a sensitive imaging technique to quantify cysts in the general population and one of the most thorough—original image sets of all positive results were reassessed by an independent, blinded radiologist.

A 65-year-old woman with a small (3-mm) cyst in the tail of the pancreas. Copyright 2010 AGA Institute

The authors conclude that pancreatic cysts are common in the general population , so gastroenterologists will need to develop careful approaches to decide which cysts to remove, ignore, or follow, based on information about patients’ age and medical conditions.

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Read the article online:
De Jong K, Yung Nio C, Hermans JJ, et al. High prevalence of pancreatic cysts detected by screening magnetic resonance imaging examinations. Clin Gastroenterol and Hepatol 2010;8:806–811.

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About The Author:

Dr. Kristine Novak

Dr. Kristine Novak

Dr. Kristine Novak is a science writer and editor based in San Francisco. She has extensive experience covering gastroenterology, hepatology, immunology, oncology, clinical, and biotechnology research discoveries.

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