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Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreas Basics

The pancreas is a gland about 6 inches long that is shaped like a thin pear lying on its side. The wider end of the pancreas is called the head, the middle section is called the body, and the narrow end is called the tail. The pancreas lies between the stomach and the spine.

The pancreas has two main jobs in the body:

·To make juices that help digest (break down) food.

·To make hormones, such as insulin and glucagon, that help control blood sugar levels. Both of these hormones help the body use and store the energy it gets from food.

The digestive juices are made by exocrine pancreas cells and the hormones are made by endocrine pancreas cells. About 95% of pancreatic cancers begin in exocrine cells.

Anatomy of the pancreas - The pancreas has three areas: head, body, and tail. It is found in the abdomen near the stomach, intestines, and other organs.

Anatomy of the pancreas; drawing shows the pancreas, stomach, spleen, liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, colon, and small intestine. An inset shows the head, body, and tail of the pancreas. The bile duct and pancreatic duct are also shown.

 

Adapted from the National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query (PDQ(r)) Cancer Information Summaries (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq). Date Last Modifed: April 2, 2015

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Last Reviewed: Mar 27, 2015