Living with diabetes
Living with diabetes

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Living with diabetes

3.2 Pancreas

The pancreas is a structure (an organ) that lies towards the back of the abdomen, the part of the body between the chest and the pelvis (hips). The abdomen contains the stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas, intestines and other structures. The pancreas is near the liver and the spleen (Figure 1) and opens into the small intestine.

Figure 1
Figure 1 Diagram showing the location of the liver, stomach and pancreas and other components of the gut within the abdomen. You do not need to remember the names of all the other structures shown: they are included for completeness

The pancreas produces many substances, including the endocrine hormones insulin and glucagon. The cells that produce these hormones are situated in the pancreas within the islets of Langerhans (Figure 2). The islets comprise, amongst others, alpha and beta cells. The beta (β) cells produce insulin. The alpha (α) cells produce glucagon.

Figure 2
Figure 2 Diagram showing the α and β cells in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas (not to scale)

If the pancreas is severely damaged or removed for some reason then no insulin is produced in the body and diabetes results.

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