Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm

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Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm
IPMN T2w ax-07 a.jpg
Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm in magnetic resonance imaging.
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 D13.6

Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN) is a type of tumor (neoplasm) that grows within the pancreatic ducts (intraductal) and is characterized by the production of thick fluid by the tumor cells (mucinous).[1] Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms are important because if they are left untreated some of them progress to invasive cancer (transform from a benign tumor to a malignant tumor). Just as colon polyps can develop into colon cancer if left untreated, so too do some intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms progress into an invasive pancreatic cancer. Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms can present an opportunity to treat a pancreatic tumor before it develops into an aggressive, hard-to-treat cancer.


Pathologists classify intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs) into two broad groups - those that are associated with an invasive cancer and those that are not associated with an invasive cancer.[2] This separation has critical prognostic significance. Patients with a surgically resected intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm without an associated invasive cancer have an excellent prognosis (>95% will be cured), while patients with a surgically resected intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm with an associated invasive cancer have a worse prognosis. Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms without an associated invasive cancer can be further subcategorized into three groups. They are IPMN with low-grade dysplasia, IPMN with moderate dysplasia, and IPMN with high-grade dysplasia. This categorization is less important [clarification needed] than the separation of IPMNs with an associated cancer from IPMNs without an associated invasive cancer, but this categorization is useful as IPMNs are believed to progress from low-grade dysplasia to moderate dysplasia to high-grade dysplasia to an IPMN with an associated invasive cancer. [clarification needed][citation needed]


Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms can come to clinical attention in a variety of different ways. The most common symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. The most common signs patients have when they come to medical attention include jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes caused by obstruction of the bile duct), weight loss, and acute pancreatitis. These signs and symptoms are not specific for an intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm, making it more difficult to establish a diagnosis. Doctors will therefore often order additional tests.

Once a doctor has reason to believe that a patient may have an intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm, he or she can confirm that suspicion using one of a number of imaging techniques. These include computerized tomography (CT), endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), and magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP). These tests will reveal dilatation of the pancreatic duct or one of the branches of the pancreatic duct. In some cases a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy can be obtained to confirm the diagnosis. Fine needle aspiration biopsy can be performed through an endoscope at the time of endoscopic ultrasound, or it can be performed through the skin using a needle guided by ultrasound or CT scanning.

IPMN forms cysts (small cavities or spaces) in the pancreas. These cysts are visible in CT scans (X-ray computed tomography). However, many pancreatic cysts are benign (see Pancreatic disease).

A growing number of patients are now being diagnosed before they develop symptoms (asymptomatic patients). In these cases, the lesion in the pancreas is discovered accidentally (by chance) when the patient is being scanned (i.e. undergoing an ultrasound, CT or MRI scan) for another reason. Up to 6% of patients undergoing pancreatic resection did so for treatment of incidental IPMNs.[3]

Scientists at the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins [4] reported in the July 20, 2011 issue of Science Translational Medicine [5] that they have developed a gene-based test that can be used to distinguish harmless from precancerous pancreatic cysts. The test may eventually help patients with harmless cysts avoid needless surgery. Bert Vogelstein and his colleagues discovered that almost all of the precancerous cysts (intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms) of the pancreas have mutations in the KRAS and/or the GNAS gene. The researchers then tested a total of 132 intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms for mutations in KRAS and GNAS. Nearly all (127) had mutations in GNAS, KRAS or both. Next, the investigators tested harmless cysts such as serous cystadenomas, and the harmless cysts did not have GNAS or KRAS mutations. Larger numbers of patients must be studied before the gene-based test can be widely offered.


The treatment of choice for main-duct IPMNs is resection due to approximately 50% chance of malignancy. Side-branch IPMNs are occasionally monitored with regular CT or MRIs, but most are eventually resected, with a 30% rate of malignancy in these resected tumors. Survival 5 years after resection of an IPMN without malignancy is approximately 80%, 85% with malignancy but no lymph node spread and 0% with malignancy spreading to lymph nodes.[6] Surgery can include the removal of the head of the pancreas (a pancreaticoduodenectomy), removal of the body and tail of the pancreas (a distal pancreatectomy), or rarely removal of the entire pancreas (a total pancreatectomy).[7] In selected cases the surgery can be performed using minimally invasive techniques such as laparoscopy[8] or robotic surgery. A study using Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Result Registry (SEER) data suggested that increased lymph node counts harvested during the surgery were associated with better survival in invasive IPMN patients.[9]


In 1982, IPMN was reported as a "mucin-producing tumor" by Kazuhiko Ohashi of the Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research.

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