Picture of the pancreas
The pancreas is about 15cm (6 inches) long and sits across the back of the abdomen, behind the stomach. The head of the pancreas is on the right side of the abdomen and is connected to the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine) through a small tube called the pancreatic duct. The narrow end of the pancreas, called the tail, extends to the left side of the body.
Type 1 diabetes: The body's immune system attacks and destroys the pancreas' insulin-producing cells. Lifelong insulin injections are required to control blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetes: The pancreas loses the ability to appropriately produce and release insulin. The body also becomes resistant to insulin, and blood sugar rises.
Cystic fibrosis: A genetic disorder that affects multiple body systems, usually including the lungs and the pancreas. Digestive problems and diabetes often result.
Pancreatic cancer: The pancreas has many different types of cells, each of which can give rise to a different type of tumour. The most common type arises from the cells that line the pancreatic duct. Because there are usually few or no early symptoms, pancreatic cancer is often advanced by the time it's discovered.
Pancreatitis: The pancreas becomes inflamed and damaged by its own digestive chemicals. Swelling and death of tissue of the pancreas can result. Although alcohol or gallstones can contribute, the cause of most pancreatitis is unknown.
Pancreatic pseudocyst: After a bout of pancreatitis, a fluid-filled cavity called a pseudocyst can form. Pseudocysts may resolve spontaneously, or they may need surgical drainage.
Islet cell tumour: The hormone-producing cells of the pancreas multiply abnormally, creating a benign or cancerous tumour. These tumours produce excess amounts of hormones and then release them into the blood. Gastrinomas, glucagonomas, and insulinomas are examples of islet cell tumours.
Enlarged pancreas: An enlarged pancreas may not be a bad sign. You may simply have a pancreas that is larger than normal. It could be because of an anatomic abnormality but other causes of an enlarged pancreas may exist and require treatment.
Physical examination: By pressing on the centre of the tummy, a doctor might check for a mass in the pancreas. He or she can also look for other signs of pancreas conditions.
CT scan(computed or computerised tomography): A CT scanner takes multiple X-rays, and a computer creates detailed images of the pancreas and abdomen. Contrast dye may be injected into your veins to improve the images.
MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging): Magnetic waves create highly detailed images of the abdomen. Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) is an MRI that focuses on the pancreas, liver and bile system.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): Using a camera on a flexible tube advanced from the mouth to the intestine, a doctor can access the area of the pancreas head. Tiny surgical tools can be used to help diagnose and treat some pancreas conditions.