The pancreas is a gland that is located in the abdomen, and produces a number of chemicals essential to the body. It forms an integral part of the digestive system, and produces the hormone insulin, which is essential for regulating sugar levels in the body.

The pancreas is located below and a little behind the stomach, in the curve of the duodenum, part of the small intestine. Its role in the digestive system is to secrete chemicals that help break down food in the small intestine, along with bile and other fluids that aid the break down of fats and proteins.

The pancreas is also critical to the production of insulin and glucagon which regulate glucose levels in the blood. If the pancreas stops producing insulin, then this leads to type one diabetes, and all its associated problems. Other problems that concern the pancreas include pancreatic cancer. This is a particularly hard cancer to spot as the tumor isn’t palpable (i.e., it can’t be felt) because of the position of the pancreas. It only starts to display symptoms when the tumor becomes large enough to interfere with its neighboring organs.

Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
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In Depth: Pancreas

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