5 Incredible Facts About the Pancreas

Pancreas anatomy facts for kids

What exactly is the pancreas? Is the pancreas a gland or an organ? Let’s learn some fun facts about the pancreas. These interesting pancreas facts might surprise you and your friends, parents, and teachers!

Fun facts about the pancreas

The pancreas is a superhero in your body, working hard to keep you healthy and energized. The human pancreas lives behind the stomach and in front of the spine.

If you could touch your pancreas, it would feel soft like a sponge. If you could see the pancreas close-up, you would notice its yellowish color. It’s shaped like a capital letter “L” turned sideways.

Fact #1: Your pancreas is part of 2 organ systems.

Yup, it has two full-time jobs! Your pancreas is so busy that it works for the endocrine system as well as the digestive system!

Fact #2: It’s a gland AND an organ.

The pancreas does double duty as a gland as an organ.

  • As a gland, it makes hormones (insulin and glucagon) to control blood sugar levels.
  • As an organ, it makes enzymes to break down food so your body can absorb all the good stuff.

Fact #3: It’s like a juice factory.

Fun fact: pancreas makes 8 cups of enzyme juice each day

Even though food never travels into the pancreas, the pancreas is a huge help to your digestive tract (also known as the gastrointestinal tract).

Every day, the pancreas makes around 8 cups (almost 2 liters) of a watery “juice” filled with enzymes.

When food from the stomach enters the small intestines, the pancreas makes the special enzyme juice.

Then, the enzyme juice flows from the pancreas down a tiny tube into the small intestines. The enzymes break down fat, protein, and carbohydrates inside the small intestines.

Fact #4: It’s the biggest endocrine gland.

Yes, the pancreas is bigger than the thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands, to name a few.

In fact, the average adult’s pancreas measures around 6 inches (15 centimeters) long and 1 inch (3 centimeters) thick.

Fact #5: You can live without your pancreas.

This fact about the pancreas is the most surprising. But it’s true: life can go on without a pancreas.

Sometimes, doctors have to perform surgery and take out part of all of the pancreas. In very rare cases, a child can be born without a pancreas.

Tools that help people check blood sugar levels
Tools that help people check blood sugar levels

Without a pancreas, you would have diabetes. This means you need to check your blood sugar levels and take insulin medication throughout the day.

You will also need to take enzyme pills to help you digest food.

Doctors, nurses, and nutrition experts work together to create a plan for these important medications. Even though life without a pancreas can be tough, people learn to live and enjoy life despite these challenges.

Pancreas anatomy pictures and videos

Now you can see what the fun pancreas facts look like! Here’s a diagram of the pancreas near other digestive system organs like the liver and gallbladder.

liver gallbladder pancreas - digestion organs that never touch food

The pancreas is also surrounded by little blood vessels, the big aorta, and the big vena cava.

In the short video below, you can take a close-up look at the pancreas inside the human body.

More fun facts about the human body

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Published on March 16, 2022. Updated on January 23, 2024 by Betty Choi, MD

Published on March 16, 2022. Updated on January 23, 2024 by Betty Choi, MD

Dr. Betty Choi pediatrician

Betty Choi, MD

Dr. Betty Choi is a Harvard-trained pediatrician who makes learning fun and doable. She created the kids’ anatomy book Human Body Learning Lab, which Science Magazine recommended as a “notable standout in the genre.”