The pancreas is part of the digestive system. It is in the upper part of the tummy (abdomen), behind the stomach and in front of the spine. It is level with where your ribs meet at the front of your body. It is about 15cm (6 inches) long.
The pancreas has three main parts:
- the head of the pancreas – the large, rounded section next to the first part of the small bowel (called the duodenum)
- the body of the pancreas – the middle part
- the tail of the pancreas – the narrow part on your left side.
The pancreatic juices travel through small tubes (ducts) in the pancreas into a larger duct. This larger duct is called the pancreatic duct. It joins with the common bile duct, which carries bile from the liver and gall bladder. Together they empty into the small bowel through an opening called the ampulla of Vater. The pancreatic juices and bile flow into the duodenum, where they help digest food.
Pancreatic cells called endocrine cells make insulin. The cells group together in small clusters called islets of Langerhans. These cells release insulin directly into the blood.