What is the pancreas

The pancreas is a large gland behind your stomach, at the back of the tummy (abdomen)

The pancreas is often described as having a head, body and tail. It is surrounded by several important organs, such as the liver, and also by large blood vessels.

Diagram showing the pancreas and surrounding organs

Diagram of the pancreas and surrounding organs

 

Diagram showing the pancreas and surrounding blood vesselsA diagram of the pancreas and surrounding blood vessels:

Your pancreas does two main things.

  • It makes enzymes. Enzymes help to break down food so your body can absorb it. This is part of digestion.
  • It makes hormones, including insulin, which control sugar levels in the blood.

Pancreatic cancer can affect how well the pancreas works. You may have problems digesting your food and controlling the sugar levels in your blood.

 

Published September 2020

To be reviewed September 2022