Parathyroid Cancer

City of Hope’s comprehensive approach to parathyroid cancer encompasses sophisticated diagnostic techniques and leading-edge surgical, radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments for these types of cancers. City of Hope also employs new experimental therapies, which may not be available elsewhere, to fight advanced, aggressive parathyroid cancers.

Parathyroid cancer patients at City of Hope receive treatment from a coordinated, multidisciplinary team of surgeons, oncologists, endocrinologists, radiation oncologists, nurses, supportive care specialists and others, ensuring the highest possible standard of care.
About Parathyroid Cancer
Parathyroid tumors occur in the parathyroid glands, four small glands located behind the thyroid. Although the majority of parathyroid tumors are benign, carcinomas of the parathyroid (parathyroid cancer) do develop, and it is important to be able to properly diagnose and treat them.

The parathyroid glands secrete a hormone called parathyroid hormone (also known as PTH or parathormone), which regulates the body’s calcium levels. PTH acts on special PTH receptors in three key areas of the body: the bones, kidneys and intestines.

PTH mobilizes the bones to release stored calcium, increases calcium reabsorption from the kidneys, and increases calcium absorption in the intestines via activation of vitamin D. The more PTH secreted, the higher the resulting level of blood calcium. Like many systems in the body, the parathyroids respond to feedback inhibition, so that if blood calcium is very high, this signals the parathyroid glands to reduce PTH production.

When parathyroid tumors develop, they cause heightened production of PTH, which in turn results in elevated blood calcium levels (a condition known as hypercalcemia). The tumor may affect a single gland, or tumors may occur simultaneously in multiple glands. This is more common in certain genetic diseases.

Parathyroid cancer is generally slow-growing and rarely metastases. However, the hyperparathyroidism (excess production of PTH) caused by the parathyroid tumors can be quite dangerous. Additionally, parathyroid tumors have a reasonably high degree of recurrence. Therefore, adept surgical management and supportive care to manage percalcemia is important in effective treatment of parathyroid cancer.
Parathyroid Cancer Risk Factors
  • Age: Most patients are diagnosed in their 40s or 50s.
  • Family history of parathyroid tumors
  • External radiation exposure, especially to the head and neck
  • End-stage renal disease/hemodialysis patients
Parathyroid Cancer Symptoms
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
  • Being much more thirsty than usual
  • Urinating much more than usual
  • Constipation
Other symptoms of parathyroid cancer include the following:
  • Pain in the abdomen, side or back that doesn't go away
  • Pain in the bones
  • A broken bone
  • A lump in the neck
  • Change in voice such as hoarseness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Kidney stones
  • Renal insufficiency
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Recurrent severe pancreatitis
  • Anemia