The body of pancreas is the central portion of the pancreas organ. It works with the rest of the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes, insulin, and glucagon. The most common diseases of the pancreas are pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
On the left side of the pancreas body is the tail of the pancreas. The body of pancreas contacts its blood supply, the superior mesenteric artery, the abdominal aorta, the kidney, renal vessels, and the left adrenal gland on its posterior side, or back side. On the anterior side, or front side, the body of pancreas contacts the space between the abdominal wall and the stomach, called the omental bursa.
The pancreas is a yellow-colored organ approximately 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) wide and 6 inches (15.2 cm) long and looks like a long, thick tongue. It is located in the transpyloric plane, a horizontal line across the abdomen at the same level as the point of the lower most rib. This glandular organ sits just behind the stomach and is sandwiched between the liver on the top side and the small intestine on the bottom edge.
All the parts of the pancreas, including the body of pancreas, function together as both an endocrine and exocrine organ. The exocrine function of the pancreas is to produce digestive enzymes and secrete them into the pancreatic duct, which eventually empties into the small intestine. Pancreatic digestive enzymes aid in the break-down of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The exocrine function of the pancreas is to synthesize and dispense insulin and glucagon into the blood. These two hormones work to control the blood sugar levels.
The two most common disorders of the pancreas are pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Pancreatitis occurs when the digestive enzymes created by the pancreas are not secreted and react inside the pancreas, causing inflammation. This condition is marked by abdominal pain and vomiting.
Pancreatic cancer has a high mortality rate because this form of cancer is hard to diagnose and difficult to treat. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer, such as jaundice, nausea, and abdominal pain typically do not appear until the cancer is fairly well established and has metastasized. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer.
If diagnosed early, pancreatic treatment typically involves surgery to remove the cancerous portion of the pancreas, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery to remove the body and tail of the pancreas is called a distal pancreatectomy, and surgery to remove the head of the pancreas is called a pancreatoduodenectomy. Advanced pancreatic cancer may not be treated except to manage complications from the failing pancreas and make the patient comfortable.