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What is a Pancreatic Mass?

By Sandra Koehler
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A pancreatic mass is a lump or growth on the pancreas, an organ that produces hormones, such as insulin, and excretes juices utilized in the digestive process. Insulin plays an important role in regulating internal functions such as metabolism, growth and temperature regulation. Pancreatic juices contain enzymes or proteins which increases the chemical process rate.

An abnormal mass in the pancreas can be a relatively harmless cyst formation or an indication of a more serious problem. A cyst is a fluid-filled, sac-like lump, often referred to as a psuedocyst, which may cause abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Pancreatic cysts are typically not cancerous, however.

On the other hand, a pancreatic tumor is a mass that may be cancerous. Pancreatic cancer is a disease where these tumors develop in the organ and may metastasize or spread into other parts of the body and jeopardize life expectancy. A cancerous pancreatic mass is difficult to diagnose because, initially, there may be no symptoms or indications of a problem. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include abdominal pain that radiates into the back, nausea, vomiting and weight loss, and jaundice. Jaundice is a condition causing a yellowing of the skin and eyes from an increase of bilirubin, a component of red blood cells.

The prognosis for a person with a pancreatic cancer depends on the stage at which it is diagnosed. Many cases are in an advanced stage of the disease before symptoms occur. Often, treatment is focused on techniques and procedures designed to slow down the spread of the cancer, and can include surgery or chemotherapy.

Pancreatic surgery involves the removal of the tumor and any infected sections of the pancreas. Surgical options can range from minimally-invasive techniques through a laparoscope to a major surgical procedure. Surgery is an option for a pancreatic mass that has not metastasized, or spread, but surgical procedures may also be performed for extreme cases to lessen the severity of the cancer, decrease the effects of the disease on other body parts, and increase life expectancy.

Chemotherapy is a treatment option for pancreatic cancer that has spread. It involves the administration of cell-killing chemicals into the body to reduce cancerous effects. This form of treatment is often given to increase the patient's quality of life.

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Discussion Comments

By anon275450 — On Jun 18, 2012

I was diagnosed and treated surgically with a neosideoblastoma of my pancreas. What is the likelihood of this recurring?

By anon194559 — On Jul 08, 2011

In the process of getting a catscan to check the drainage of an aortic aneurysm, the doctor found a mass on the pancreas of my husband. From the large size of the mass that has grown in the last six months since the last cat scan, it is felt that it an adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. We are to see two doctors this next week for verification.

By FernValley — On Jan 22, 2011

Even if you have a pancreatic mass diagnosis that is not cancerous, I recommend going back regularly to have things checked in case things change; because it is hard to diagnose, it is possible to not catch that it is malignant the first time.

By vogueknit17 — On Jan 19, 2011

While it may not be not cancerous, having a pancreatic cystic mass can be a really painful thing, as can any sort of cyst. It is a good idea to get checked out any time you think you have a chronic pain near your vital organs, in case it is a cyst or something more serious.

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