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Blog / Pancreas Health

The Pancreas: Anatomy and Functions

Sep. 12 2019 by Sheherzad Raza Preisler Blog Editor, PR, & Social Media Coordinator
The Pancreas: Anatomy and Functions

The pancreas performs necessary functions that fall into two categories: hormonal and digestive

In terms of hormones, the pancreas encloses an endocrine gland that secretes the hormones insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream, which work in tandem to monitor the levels of glucose in the blood, as well as somatostatin, which halts the release of the former two hormones.

It is incredibly important for our blood-glucose level to remain stable; this ensures that we have a steady supply of energy we can use on metabolism and exercise. There are also areas of our brain that rely on glucose to function properly.

Unfortunately, our pancreas could stop making insulin or become unable to make enough for our body. If either of these two occur, you develop a condition known as diabetes. There are two forms of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 finds its origins in the body self-sabotaging. In this case, our immune system prevents the pancreas from producing insulin by attacking its own cells. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is a metabolic disorder: your body becomes unable to respond to or produce insulin. Your treatment plan will depend on whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

In terms of digestion, the pancreas contains an exocrine gland that secretes enzymes which help the duodenum break down fats, proteins, acids, and carbohydrates. Once secreted, these enzymes move down the pancreatic duct–which runs through the entirety of the pancreas–into the bile duct in their inactive forms. Furthermore, the exocrine tissue secretes a bicarbonate that neutralizes stomach acid in the duodenum.

Structurally speaking, the pancreas is a long, tapered organ found behind the stomach, stretching across the back of the belly. The right side of the organ is referred to as the head, and is the widest part of the pancreas; it’s placed in the curve of the duodenum. The left, tapered side of the pancreas–which is known as the body–expands marginally upwards, culminating in its tail, which is found near the spleen. 

The Ezra full-body and torso scans screen the pancreas for cancerous and precancerous conditions, as well as other actionable conditions. You can learn more about our screening plans here.