Parathyroid cancer is a cancerous (malignant) growth in a parathyroid gland.
The parathyroid glands control the calcium level in the body. There are 4 parathyroid glands, 2 on top of each lobe of the thyroid gland, which is located at the base of the neck.
Parathyroid cancer is a very rare type of cancer. It affects men and women equally. The cancer often occurs in people older than 30.
The cause of parathyroid cancer is unknown. People with a genetic conditions called multiple endocrine neoplasia type I and hyperparathyroidism-jaw tumor syndrome have an increased risk for this disease. People who had head or neck radiation also may be at increased risk. But this type of radiation is more likely to cause thyroid cancer.
Symptoms of parathyroid cancer are mainly caused by a high level of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia), and may affect different parts of the body.
The following treatments may be used to correct hypercalcemia due to parathyroid cancer:
Surgery is the recommended treatment for parathyroid cancer. Sometimes, it is hard to find out if a parathyroid tumor is cancerous. Your doctor may recommend surgery even without a confirmed diagnosis. Minimally invasive surgery, using smaller cuts, is becoming more common for parathyroid disease.
If tests before the surgery can find the affected gland, surgery may be done on one side of the neck. If it isn't possible to find the problem gland before surgery, the surgeon will look at both sides of your neck.
Chemotherapy and radiation don't work well to prevent the cancer from coming back. Radiation may help reduce the spread of cancer to the bones.
Repeated surgeries for cancer that has returned may help:
Parathyroid cancer is slow growing. Surgery may help extend life even when the cancer spreads.
The cancer may spread (metastasize) to other places in the body, most often the lungs and bones.
Hypercalcemia is the most serious complication. Most deaths from parathyroid cancer occur due to severe, difficult-to-control hypercalcemia, and not the cancer itself.
The cancer often comes back (recurs). Further surgeries may be needed. Complications from surgery can include:
Call your health care provider if you feel a lump in your neck or experience symptoms of hypercalcemia.
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