The pancreas is an elongated, tapered organ located across the back of the belly, behind the stomach. The right side of the organ is called the head. It is the widest part of the organ. It lies in the curve of the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine. The body of the pancreas is tapered on the left side and extends slightly upward. It ends near the spleen, which is called the tail.
The pancreas is made up of 2 types of glands:
Exocrine. The exocrine gland secretes digestive enzymes. These enzymes are secreted into a network of ducts that join the main pancreatic duct. This runs the length of the pancreas.
Endocrine. The endocrine gland, which consists of the islets of Langerhans, secretes hormones into the bloodstream.
The pancreas has digestive and hormonal functions:
The enzymes secreted by the exocrine gland in the pancreas help break down carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and acids in the duodenum. These enzymes travel down the pancreatic duct into the bile duct in an inactive form. When they enter the duodenum, they are activated. The exocrine tissue also secretes a bicarbonate to neutralize stomach acid in the duodenum. This is the first section of the small intestine.
The main hormones secreted by the endocrine gland in the pancreas are insulin and glucagon. These hormones regulate the level of glucose in the blood.
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