Science & Technology: The Pancreas—Mysteries of a Hidden Organ
Posted 01 March 2010 | By
Many years ago, one of America's most accomplished medical writers, Dr. Lewis Thomas, described how insecure he would be if faced with taking on the responsibilities of his liver. He wrote that he was considerably less intelligent and unable to make all of the decisions the liver is designed for.1 Dr. Thomas would have been even more humble had he chosen the pancreas. When it functions properly, this organ is silent and unrecognized, but when it malfunctions, extraordinary complications and even death can ensue. Even now, in the 21st century when medical discoveries abound, the pancreas carries an aura of mystery and its diseases present a challenge for diagnosis and treatment.2 Fortunately, research is ongoing and progress is being made to treat pancreatic diseases. This article describes the discovery, anatomy and function of the pancreas and discusses pancreatic cancer and its treatment.