When you hear the word Pancreas it might remind you of two things – One Diabetes and two Steve Jobs who died of Pancreatic cancer. Though pancreas is a very small gland organ, it is the cause behind more than 500 million diabetes cases prevalent worldwide. WHO projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death in 2030. Let’s learn some interesting facts about this not so popular organ.
1. Pancreas is a carrot shaped, rubbery gland with pale color and it remains well-hidden between ribs and the stomach. Till 19th century scientists believed that this is just playing the role of ‘shock absorber’
2. The name ‘pancreas’ is derived from Greek word ‘pankreas’ and it means – ‘All Flesh’
3. Pancreas functions both as an exocrine and endocrine gland
4. The endocrine pancreas is made up of clusters of cells called islets of Langerhans, which in total contains approximately 1 million cells and are responsible for producing hormones. Alpha cells secrete glucagon, and beta cells generate insulin.
5. The exocrine pancreas, is responsible for secreting digestive enzymes namely proteases (to digest protein), lipases (for fat) and amylase
5.The two hormones produced by pancreas namely, Insulin and glucagon are secreted directly into the bloodstream, and together, they regulate the level of glucose in the blood
6. It is the pancreas that secretes the body’s own antacid, sodium bicarbonate, to settle an upset stomach
7. Surgery to remove the pancreas is called pancreatectomy. The surgery can be partial wherein doctors remove only the diseased portion of the pancreas, or sometimes may remove the entire pancreas.
8. After a pancreatectomy, a person will develop diabetes and the person need to be life- long on insulin therapy
9. A pancreas transplant is possible and it places a healthy pancreas from a donor into a person with a diseased pancreas. It is mostly done for people with severe type 1 diabetes.
10. Pancreatitis is a disease condition wherein, inflammation of the pancreas occurs due to build up of pancreatic enzyme secretions, because of which the pancreas begins to digest the organ itself
11. Cigarette smoking, family history of pancreatic cancer or hereditary cancer syndromes, and chronic pancreatitis can trigger Pancreatic cancer
12. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all cancers – just 3-6% of those diagnosed survive for five years