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The pancreas is part of the digestive system. It has two main roles.
The pancreas makes:
The pancreas is in the upper half of the abdomen, level with the V-shape where the ribs meet at the front. It lies behind the stomach and just in front of the backbone. It's about 15cm (6 inches) long and is shaped like a tadpole. The large rounded section is called the head of the pancreas and lies next to the first part of the small bowel (the duodenum). The middle part is known as the body of the pancreas. The narrow part is called the tail of the pancreas and is on your left side.
Pancreatic juice travels through small tubes (ducts) in the pancreas into a larger duct called the pancreatic duct. This joins with the bile duct, which carries bile from the liver and gall bladder, before opening into the first part of the small bowel (duodenum). The pancreatic juice flows along the pancreatic duct into the duodenum where it helps to digest food.
Diagram showing the position of the pancreas
View a large version of the diagram showing the position of the pancreas|
Content last reviewed: 1 December 2010
Next planned review: 2013
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