Background: Mucus-hypersecreting tumor of the pancreas appears as dilated ducts and cystic spaces filled with mucus. To determine where such tumors arise and how they extend, computer-aided three-dimensional reconstruction was done of the ductal system. This also was used to visualize the spatial relationships among epithelial hyperplasia, dysplasia, and carcinoma in situ (CIS).
Methods: Surgically removed pancreases were studied from 12 patients with mucus-hypersecreting tumors. The specimens were fixed in buffered formaldehyde solution 10%, embedded in paraffin and semiserially sectioned at 3 microns at an interval of 60 microns. The ductal contours were differentiated among ducts lined by ordinary epithelia, hyperplastic epithelia, dysplastic cells, or CIS and were inputted into a computer system that integrated a three-dimensional image of ducts in the display.
Results and conclusions: (1) The tumors arose in the main pancreatic duct or its subbranches, and the cysts corresponded to segments expanded by the superficial growth of tumor cells; (2) areas of CIS arose in zones of preceding dysplasia, suggesting a dysplasia-carcinoma sequence; and (3) dysplastic or cancerous cells often extended intraductally over the dilated segments of ducts.