How could we improve it?

This article contains false or inaccurate information.

Please tell us what was incorrect.

Please note that you do not need to fill this detail if it's inconvenient for you. Click Send My Opinion below to continue reading our site.
This article doesn't provide enough info.

Please tell us what was missing.

Please note that you do not need to fill this detail if it's inconvenient for you. Click Send My Opinion below to continue reading our site.
Hmm... I have a question.

We’re unable to offer personal health advice, diagnosis, or treatment, but we welcome your feedback! Just type it in the box below.

If you're facing a medical emergency, call your local emergency services immediately, or visit the nearest emergency room or urgent care center.


Or copy link


Pancreatic Cyst: What Is It and What Causes It?

Pancreatic Cyst: What Is It and What Causes It?

Whenever people hear about a cyst or a growth, they worry whether it is cancerous or not. In the case of a pancreatic cyst, it is possible for it to be cancerous. But what exactly causes it to develop, what is the pancreatic cyst growth rate, and when should you be worried?

pancreatic cyst

What Is a Pancreatic Cyst?

As the name suggests, a pancreatic cyst is a growth or a cyst on the pancreas. Most of the time, these types of cysts are not at all cancerous and pose little risk to a person’s health. However, around one to two percent of these cysts can be cancerous.

Usually, pancreatic cysts are found during imaging tests for other illnesses. Most cysts don’t show any symptoms, so most of the time, people are not even aware they have a cyst until a doctor discovers it.

It’s also possible for a pancreatic cyst to grow over time. In these cases, the cyst can block the pancreas and cause inflammation or pancreatitis. If not treated, this can lead to infection and more serious complications.

There are also similar growths in the pancreas called pseudocysts. Compared to pancreatic cysts, pseudocysts are not “true” cysts in that pseudocysts are not a closed structure. It also does not have a lining of cells that separate it from the surrounding tissue. In addition, pseudocysts almost never become cancerous like pancreatic cysts.

What Can Cause a Pancreatic Cyst?

The exact cause of a pancreatic cyst is hard to define. However, there are some things that doctors believe might be responsible for the development of both pancreatic cysts and pseudocysts.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a condition wherein cysts develop in a person’s kidneys. Researchers have found that in people with PKD, the prevalence of pancreatic cysts is much higher.

They are not yet sure about what exactly causes PKD patients to develop pancreatic cysts, but there is a definite connection between the two, and patients with PKD need to be aware of how this can affect their health.

Von Hippel-Lindau Disease

Von Hippel-Lindau disease is a condition related to tumors developing in different organs. In particular, about 70% of patients with von Hippel-Lindau disease develop pancreatic cysts.

In addition, von Hippel-Lindau disease is also hereditary. So it would be a good idea for people with a family history of this illness to get checked for pancreatic cysts just to be on the safe side.

pancreatic cyst

Alcohol Use

Heavy alcohol use is also believed to potentially cause cysts in the pancreas. In particular, prolonged alcohol use can increase a person’s risk of pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis is a known risk factor for developing both cysts and pseudocysts.

In order to avoid cysts, it would be best to drink in moderation or to avoid drinking at all.

Abdominal Injury

Lastly, abdominal injury can also cause the development of cysts in the pancreas. This could be caused by an accident or even illnesses such as cystic fibrosis. In addition, abdominal injury can also lead to pancreatitis, which is a known risk factor for pseudocysts.

Key Takeaways

For the most part, cysts in the pancreas don’t cause any harm, and usually don’t have any harmful side effects. However, if you notice any symptoms, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor.

It is possible for cysts to grow larger over time or for them to become cancerous. So it’s advised that you undergo regular check-ups to ensure good overall health.

Remember, when it comes to diseases such as cancer, early detection is key. The sooner doctors diagnose the condition, the sooner treatment can start, and the better the outcome would be.

Learn more about Digestive Health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Pancreatic Pseudocysts | Cedars-Sinai, https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/p/pancreatic-pseudocysts.html, Accessed December 6, 2020

Pancreatic cysts – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatic-cysts/symptoms-causes/syc-20375993#:~:text=Pancreatic%20cysts%20are%20saclike%20pockets,imaging%20testing%20for%20another%20problem., Accessed December 6, 2020

Should I be worried about a pancreatic cyst? – Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/should-i-be-worried-about-a-pancreatic-cyst, Accessed December 6, 2020

Do Pancreatic Cysts Become Cancerous? | Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, https://www.roswellpark.org/cancertalk/201711/do-pancreatic-cysts-become-cancerous, Accessed December 6, 2020

Pancreatic Cysts in Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease: Prevalence and Association with PKD2 Gene Mutations | Radiology, https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/10.1148/radiol.2016151650#:~:text=Pancreatic%20cysts%20are%20present%20in,fast%20spin%2Decho%20MR%20images., Accessed December 6, 2020

Pancreatic cyst development: insights from von Hippel-Lindau disease, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3579754/#:~:text=Von%20Hippel%2DLindau%20(VHL),other%20benign%20and%20malignant%20neoplasms., Accessed December 6, 2020

Picture of the authorbadge
Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jul 06
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel