Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Parathyroid Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - General Information About Parathyroid Cancer

Parathyroid cancer is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of a parathyroid gland.

The parathyroid glands are four pea-sized organs found in the neck near the thyroid gland. The parathyroid glands make parathyroid hormone (PTH or parathormone). PTH helps the body use and store calcium to keep the calcium in the blood at normal levels.

cdr0000719086.jpg
Anatomy of the thyroid and parathyroid glands. The thyroid gland lies at the base of the throat near the trachea. It is shaped like a butterfly, with the right lobe and left lobe connected by a thin piece of tissue called the isthmus. The parathyroid glands are four pea-sized organs found in the neck near the thyroid. The thyroid and parathyroid glands make hormones.

A parathyroid gland may become overactive and make too much PTH, a condition called hyperparathyroidism. Hyperparathyroidism can occur when a benign tumor (noncancer), called an adenoma, forms on one of the parathyroid glands, and causes it to grow and become overactive. Sometimes hyperparathyroidism can be caused by parathyroid cancer, but this is very rare.

The extra PTH causes:

  • The calcium stored in the bones to move into the blood.
  • The intestines to absorb more calcium from the food we eat.

This condition is called hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood).

The hypercalcemia caused by hyperparathyroidism is more serious and life-threatening than parathyroid cancer itself and treating hypercalcemia is as important as treating the cancer.

Having certain inherited disorders can increase the risk of developing parathyroid cancer.

Anything that increases the chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Risk factors for parathyroid cancer include the following rare disorders that are inherited (passed down from parent to child):

  • Familial isolated hyperparathyroidism (FIHP).
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome.

Treatment with radiation therapy may increase the risk of developing a parathyroid adenoma.

Possible signs of parathyroid cancer include weakness, feeling tired, and a lump in the neck.

Most parathyroid cancer symptoms are caused by the hypercalcemia that develops. Symptoms of hypercalcemia include the following:

  • Weakness.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss for no known reason.
  • Being much more thirsty than usual.
  • Urinating much more than usual.
  • Constipation.
  • Trouble thinking clearly.
    1|2|3
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Colorectal cancer cells
    A common one in both men and women.
    Lung cancer xray
    See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
     
    sauteed cherry tomatoes
    Fight cancer one plate at a time.
    Ovarian cancer illustration
    Do you know the symptoms?
     
    Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
    Blog
    what is your cancer risk
    HEALTH CHECK
     
    colorectal cancer treatment advances
    Video
    breast cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    prostate cancer overview
    SLIDESHOW
    lung cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    ovarian cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
    Actor Michael Douglas
    Article