Parathyroid cancer is a very rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of a parathyroid gland.
The parathyroid gland. are four pea-sized organs found in the neck behind the thyroid. The parathyroid glands make parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH helps the body use and store calcium to keep the calcium in the blood at normal levels.
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, causing 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 food
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. Once the calcium level is controlled, surgery is the mainstay of therapy in most cases.
Fox Chase surgeons are skilled in the removal of benign or malignant parathyroid tumors.