Parathyroid cancer is a rare type of cancer that develops in one of your four parathyroid glands. These glands are in the base of your neck, on the thyroid gland. They make a type of hormone called parathyroid hormone, which controls the calcium in your body.

Symptoms

Parathyroid cancer causes high levels of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia). This causes most of the symptoms of parathyroid cancer, which include:

  • A lump in your neck
  • Tiredness
  • Feeling weak
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Being much thirstier than usual
  • Urinating more than usual
  • Kidney problems, such as kidney stones
  • Bone pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Confusion or trouble concentrating
  • Pain in your side or back that doesn’t go away
  • Broken bones
  • Problems speaking

Treatment

Surgery is the main treatment for parathyroid cancer. Your surgeon will remove the parathyroid gland and tissue around it, including part of the thyroid gland and lymph nodes. Your doctor may also recommend radiation to help keep your cancer from coming back, or if the tumor can’t be fully removed with surgery. New treatments for parathyroid cancer, including immunotherapies, are being tested in clinical trials.

You may also need medication to lower your calcium levels, especially before surgery. Possible medicines for this include:

  • Bisphosphonates
  • Calcitonin
  • Gallium nitrate
  • Cinacalcet

Risk Factors 

You may have an increased risk of parathyroid cancer if you’ve previously had head or neck radiation. Certain rare conditions can also increase your risk of parathyroid cancer, including:

  • Familial isolated hyperparathyroidism (FIHP)
  • Hyperparathyroidism jaw tumor (HPT-JT)
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type I