Background: Cystic neoplasms of the pancreas account for only 1% of primary pancreatic lesions. However, patients with these tumors are diagnosed more frequently. Up to now, nonsurgical management is still the established form of treatment of benign cystic tumours of the pancreas.
Methods: Between 1987 and 1996 we treated 51 patients with serous and mucinous cystadenoma and their malignant counterparts, serous and mucinous cystadenocarcinoma.
Results: Eighty-five percent of the patients presented symptoms. Computed tomography and endoscopic cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) were the most sensitive diagnostic techniques; however, in three patients with serous cystadenoma and in one patient with serous cystadenocarcinoma, ERCP findings were completely normal. The tumour was resected in all but one patient. There was no perioperative mortality. After dismissal from the hospital, all patients in whom benign tumours had been resected are still alive; however, the late mortality of mucinous cystadenocarcinoma was 36% after a median follow-up of 6 years.
Conclusion: Surgical resection is recommended in all cystic tumours, even in serous cystic tumours, because symptoms may develop and malignant transformation to serous cystadenocarcinoma is possible.