: a large lobulated gland that in humans lies in front of the upper lumbar vertebrae and behind the stomach and is somewhat hammer-shaped and firmly attached anteriorly to the curve of the duodenum with which it communicates through one or more pancreatic ducts and that consists of (1) tubular acini secreting digestive enzymes which pass to the intestine and function in the breakdown of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates; (2) modified acinar cells that form islets of Langerhans between the tubules and secrete the hormones insulin and glucagon; and (3) a firm connective-tissue capsule that extends supportive strands into the organ
Illustration of PANCREAS
Compound gland functioning as both an exocrine (secreting through a duct) and an endocrine (ductless) gland. It continuously secretes pancreatic juice (containing water, bicarbonate, and enzymes needed to digest carbohydrates, fat, and protein) through the pancreatic duct to the duodenum. Scattered among the enzyme-producing cells are the islets of Langerhans, which secrete insulin and glucagon directly into the bloodstream. Disorders include inflammation (pancreatitis), infections, tumours, and cysts. If more than 80–90% of the pancreas must be removed, the patient will need to take insulin and pancreatic extracts. See alsodiabetes mellitus; hypoglycemia.