The anatomy of the pancreas is closely related to several other organs of the digestive system, where food digestion usually takes place. Examples of these organs are the liver, the intestines, the stomach and the esophagus. Located behind the stomach and in the back part of the abdomen, the pancreas is approximately 6 inches (15.24 cm) in length. It is shaped like a fish or a tube, and has a head, a body, and a tail.
Its head extends to the right side of the body and is situated beside the duodenum, or the first section of the small intestines. The narrow tail extends to the left, and the body of the pancreas lies between these two sections. There are different clusters of cells, also referred to as the islets of Langerhans, contained in the anatomy of the pancreas. These include the beta cells, the gamma cells, the alpha cells, and the delta cells. Each one of these has a specific function in the body.
Alpha cells are responsible in producing glucagon and the beta cells are important in producing insulin. Glucagon maintains of the amount of blood glucose or blood sugar in between meals. Insulin allows glucose to be taken in by the different cells inside the body for their use. Somatostatin, a protein or hormone that helps regulate the nervous system and endocrine system, is released by the delta cells of the pancreas, as well as by some cells from the brain and intestines. Gamma cells are said to aid in the reduction of appetite.
Also included in the function and anatomy of the pancreas is the release of enzymes. Enzymes are substances mostly made up of proteins, which are important in the digestion of starch, fats, and other proteins coming from food. When needed by the body, these pancreatic juices flow down the pancreatic duct toward the duodenum. Connected to this duct is the common bile duct, which delivers bile to the intestines. Bile, which is also needed for fat digestion, is a yellow-green substance made in the liver and usually stored in the gallbladder.
Disorders that frequently influence the function and anatomy of the pancreas include pancreatitis and cancer. Pancreatitis occurs when there is inflammation in the pancreas that can result in swelling and damage to the organ. When the beta cells of the anatomy of the pancreas are damaged, diabetes often develops. Diabetes is a condition that often causes elevated levels of sugar in the blood.