The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center

Parts of Pancreas

The pancreas is made up of glandular tissue and a system of ducts. The main duct is the pancreatic duct which runs the length of the pancreas. It drains the pancreatic fluid from the gland and carries it to the duodenum. The main duct is about one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter and has many small side branches. The pancreatic duct merges with the bile duct to form the ampulla of Vater (a widening of the duct just before it enters the duodenum.)

Diagram showing pancreas parts

Your doctor will probably refer to different parts of the pancreas when discussing your situation. The part of the pancreas that a tumor arises in will effect how it is treated. For descriptive purposes, there are two ways the pancreas is divided into parts: by parts of the overall shape and by the function of its cells. Fig. 1-2


The Shape of the Pancreas

uncinate process The part of the gland that bends backwards and underneath the body of the pancreas. Two very important blood vessels, the superior mesenteric artery and vein cross in front of the uncinate process.
head The widest part of the gland. It is found in the right part of abdomen, nestled in the curve of the duodenum which forms an impression in the side of the gland.
neck The thin section between the head and the body of the gland.
body The middle part of gland between the neck and the tail. The superior mesenteric blood vessels run behind this part of the gland.
tail The thin tip of gland in the left part of abdomen in close proximity with the spleen.