The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center

What is the pancreas?

A simple answer is that the pancreas is an oblong flattened gland located deep in the abdomen. Most people don't know as much about the pancreas as they do about other parts of their bodies. In fact, this gland is an integral part of the digestive system that often goes unnoticed until problems occur. If you are concerned about pancreas cancer, you will want a lot more information.

Where is the pancreas?

The pancreas is located deep in the abdomen, sandwiched between the stomach and the spine. It lies partially behind the stomach. The other part is nestled in the curve of the duodenum (small intestine). To visualize the position of the pancreas, try this: Touch the thumb and "pinkie" finger of your right hand together, keeping the other three fingers together and straight. Then, place your hand in the center of your belly just below your lower ribs with your fingers pointing to the left. Your hand will be at the approximate level of your pancreas.

Because of the pancreas' deep location, tumors are rarely palpable (able to be felt by pressing on the abdomen.) It also explains why many symptoms of pancreatic cancer often do not appear until the tumor grows large enough to interfere with the function of nearby structures such as the stomach, duodenum, liver, or gallbladder.

Diagram showing pancreas location

Fig. 1-1