What is the pancreas?
The pancreas is in the upper tummy (abdomen) and lies behind the stomach and
guts (intestines). It makes a fluid that contains chemicals (enzymes) which are
needed to digest food. The enzymes are made in the pancreatic cells and are
passed into tiny tubes (ducts). These ducts join together like branches of a tree to
form the main pancreatic duct. This drains the enzyme-rich fluid into the part of the
gut just after the stomach (called the duodenum). The enzymes are in an inactive
form in the pancreas (otherwise they would digest the pancreas). They are 'activated'
in the duodenum to digest food.
Groups of special cells called 'islets of Langerhans' are scattered throughout the
pancreas. These cells make the hormones insulin and glucagon. The hormones are
passed (secreted) directly into the bloodstream to control the blood sugar level.
The bile duct carries bile from the liver and gallbladder. This joins the pancreatic duct
just before it opens into the duodenum. Bile also passes into the duodenum and
helps to digest food.