Mucinous Cystic Neoplasm

Pancreas cysts are fluid filled sacs arising within or from the pancreas, a large gland that sits behind the stomach. Mucinous cystic neoplasms are benign but precancerous tumor cysts most commonly arising in the body and tail region of the pancreas. Precancerous means that the cyst may become cancer if left untreated. These cysts are almost always found in women and rarely found in men.


Mucinous cystic neoplasms have abnormal lining cells which secrete mucus. They also have tiny walls called septations, that divide the cyst into compartments. The most unique feature is the supportive spongy tissue surrounding the cyst, similar to the tissue seen in an ovary. 

Surgery is recommended for large cysts depending on the patient’s overall health and personal preference. With most small cystic tumors, surgical risk may outweigh the benefits of removing the tumor. If the decision is made to observe, rather than remove the cystic tumor, it should be evaluated periodically (every 6 months to 1-2 years) with MRI or CT scan, and at times with repeat endoscopic ultrasound examination.


Most people with MCN do not have any symptoms. Large cysts or cysts with cancerous change may cause abdominal pain, sensation of stomach fullness, nausea, vomiting and weight loss.

MCN is usually diagnosed with a combination of imaging tests, such as CT scan or MRI, and a procedure called endoscopic ultrasound (EUS). EUS involves inserting a thin tube with an ultrasound probe into the digestive tract to get a close-up view of the pancreas.

Treatment for MCN depends on the size and location of the cyst, as well as the presence of any cancerous cells. Surgery is often necessary to remove the cyst or affected part of the pancreas. In some cases, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may also be recommended if cancer is found in the surgical specimen.

There is no known way to prevent the development of MCN. Once it is detected,  regular check-ups and surveillance tests can help detect cancerous change early, which can improve the chances of a successful treatment.

There is no clear evidence to suggest that MCN is hereditary. However, some research has indicated that certain genetic factors may increase the risk of developing the condition.

The long-term outlook and prognosis for people with MCN depends on the size and location of the cyst, as well as the presence of cancerous cells. If the cyst is small and does not contain cancerous cells, the prognosis is generally good. However, if the cyst is large or contains cancerous cells, the prognosis may be more serious.

If the cyst does not contain cancerous cells, surgical resection of a MCN is typically curative. However, if the cyst contains cancerous cells, the chances of a cure may be lower. In these cases, treatment may be aimed at controlling the growth of cancerous cells.

Medications have no role in treatment of pancreas cysts. Surgery is usually necessary to remove the cyst or affected part of the pancreas.

It is generally recommended that people with MCN maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly to help manage the condition. However, specific lifestyle changes will depend on the individual’s specific situation and should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

It is possible for MCN to recur after treatment, if the cyst contains cancerous cells. Regular check-ups and surveillance  tests can help detect any recurrence early, which may improve the chances of successful treatment.