Parathyroid cancer is slow-growing in one of the four tiny glands attached to the thyroid. It is one of the rarest types of cancer. The parathyroid glands are two pairs of pea-sized, oval-shaped glands, located just behind the thyroid — a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck.
These glands are directly involved in the secretion of a hormone that helps the body store and use calcium, which keeps bones strong and helps your muscles, nerves, and cells work normally. It’s called PTH, for parathyroid hormone.
Like other cancers, it happens when cells grow out of control. Doctors don’t know the exact cause of it. People over the age of 30 are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. Men and women are both affected. Women have a slightly better prognosis or chance of recovery.
Signs of Parathyroid cancer
One or more of your parathyroid glands may secrete an abnormal amount of parathyroid hormone. This is referred to as primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT). When you have too much parathyroid hormone, your blood calcium levels rise. This results in an excess of calcium in the blood (called hypercalcemia). There are many symptoms that indicate there’s too much calcium in your blood. It’s usually the way doctors find out about cancer. Symptoms include:
· Feeling weak and tired
· Upset stomach and vomiting
· Poor appetite
· Weight loss for no apparent reason
· Excessive Thirst
· Malaise (a general feeling of discomfort or being unwell)
· Bone pain
· Changes in mood and depression
· Kidney problems
Other possible symptoms include:
· Having a lump in your neck (rare)
· Experiencing changes in voice or hoarseness
· Pain in the abdomen or back that doesn’t go away
· Difficulty swallowing.
Causes of parathyroid cancer
In rare cases, parathyroid cancer has also been found in people with the below genetic disorders:
· Type I Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN1)
· Isolated Familial Hyperparathyroidism (FIHP)
· Syndrome of Hyperparathyroidism and jaw tumour.
Past radiation therapy for the head or neck can also increase the risk of developing it.
Non-genetic factors have also been found to contribute to a person’s risk of developing parathyroid cancer, including a history of hyperparathyroidism with chronic kidney failure, thyroid cancer, and previous radiation therapy on the neck.
Alternative Names for this condition
· Cancer of the parathyroid
· Carcinoma of parathyroid gland
· Malignant neoplasm of parathyroid
· Malignant parathyroid gland neoplasm
· Malignant parathyroid gland tumor
· Malignant parathyroid neoplasm
· Malignant parathyroid tumor
· Malignant tumor of parathyroid
· Parathyroid adenocarcinoma
· Parathyroid carcinoma
· Parathyroid gland cancer
· Parathyroid gland carcinoma
· Parathyroid neoplasms
Diagnosis of parathyroid cancer
Diagnosis of parathyroid cancer can be difficult. One reason for this is that the cells of a benign (non-cancerous) parathyroid adenoma resemble those of a parathyroid cancer. A diagnosis of cancer is usually made after the abnormal, overactive thyroid gland is surgically removed (parathyroidectomy) and the tissue is tested. Occasionally, the surgeon can detect cancer during surgery. If you have been diagnosed with parathyroid cancer, you may undergo blood tests and imaging tests. These tests and procedures help to determine which of the parathyroid glands is overactive, and if the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of your body:
• Blood Test: A blood sample is tested for calcium levels in order to diagnose cancer.
• CT (computerized tomography) scan: A CT scan produces a series of detailed 3D (three-dimensional) images of your body using X-rays and a computer.
• MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): MRI creates detailed images of your body using a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer. It does not employ X-rays (radiation).
· Ultrasound: This test creates an image called a sonogram by using special sound waves.
· Angiogram: A specific dye is injected into a blood vessel. X-rays are taken as it moves through your body to see if there are any blockages.
Prevention and Treatment
The most common treatment option for parathyroid cancer is surgery to remove the cancerous parathyroid gland. If cancer has spread, your surgeon may need to remove tissue around your parathyroid gland as well as cancerous tissues elsewhere in your body (metastasized).
Unfortunately, there is no known method of preventing parathyroid cancer. Likewise, there is no way to lower your chances of getting this condition.
When to Contact a Healthcare Professional
Contact your doctor if you feel a lump in your neck or experience symptoms of hypercalcemia, or if you have a family history of parathyroid disease.