The Pancreas

The pancreas is part of your digestive system. It produces pancreatic juice (a fluid containing enzymes which helps to digest food) and insulin (a hormone which controls the level of sugar in your blood).

The pancreas lies at the back of the upper abdomen behind the stomach. It is about 15cm long and shaped like a tadpole. The large rounded section on the right hand side of the body is called the head of the pancreas, the middle section is called the body and the narrow part is known as the tail.

The duct of the pancreas meets the bile duct and together they form a channel through which the fluids produced by the pancreas and the bile duct flow out into the duodenum. The bile duct may get blocked when a pancreatic tumour invades it. This causes jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin and dark urine).


The pancreas contains two types of glands:

  • Exocrine glands – create the enzymes that help digest (break down) foods; and
  • Endocrine glands – create the hormones such as insulin and glucagon, which control blood sugars and other functions of the intestine.