What is Parathyroid Carcinoma (also known as Parathyroid Cancer)?
Rare cancer that grows in the tissue of your parathyroid glands is called parathyroid cancer. Most of the time, your parathyroid glands are behind your thyroid, which is a butterfly-shaped gland in front of your neck.
For parathyroid cancer, healthcare professionals do not use the four-stage naming system that is commonly used for other types of cancer. Instead, there are three types of parathyroid cancer:
Localized: If you have localized parathyroid cancer, the cancer is in your parathyroid gland and may have spread to other parts of your body.
Metastatic: Cancer has spread to other parts of your body, such as your lymph nodes, liver, lungs, bone, or pancreas, in metastatic parathyroid cancer. At the time of diagnosis, between 10% and 30% of people with parathyroid cancer will also have metastatic cancer. Cancer will most likely have spread to your liver, bone, or lung.
Recurrent: Recurrent parathyroid cancer indicates that the disease returns despite the initial treatment, which typically entails the surgical removal of the cancerous gland. Recurrence is a possibility for more than half of those diagnosed with parathyroid cancer. In most cases, cancer returns two to five years after the first surgery, but it may take more than 20 years.
Behind the thyroid, most people have four parathyroid glands the size of peas. The parathyroid glands are part of your endocrine system, like the thyroid. Your parathyroid glands can sometimes be found in your chest or along your esophagus. Ectopic (in an abnormal location) parathyroid glands are the term for these.
Through the production of parathyroid hormone (PTH), your parathyroid glands are in charge of regulating the amount of calcium in your blood. One or more of your parathyroid glands may occasionally secrete an excessive amount of parathyroid hormone. Primary hyperparathyroidism, or pHPT, is the medical term for this. Hypercalcemia is a condition characterized by elevated blood calcium levels brought on by an excess of parathyroid hormone.
ADENOMA PARATHYROID CANCER
A benign (noncancerous) growth on one or more of your parathyroid glands is called an adenoma.
Primary hyperparathyroidism is a condition in which an adenoma causes your parathyroid gland to produce more parathyroid hormone than your body requires. Your body’s normal calcium balance is disrupted by an excess of parathyroid hormone, which causes an increase in the amount of calcium in your blood.
How is parathyroid cancer connected to hypercalcemia?
Your blood contains more calcium than usual if you have hypercalcemia. Because cancer causes your parathyroid gland to become overactive and release a large amount of parathyroid hormone (PTH), people with parathyroid cancer frequently suffer from hypercalcemia. Because the parathyroid hormone controls how much calcium is in your blood, having too much of it will cause you to have too much calcium in your blood.
Hypercalcemia can be problematic for your body and health. As a result, treating hypercalcemia caused by parathyroid cancer is just as important as treating cancer itself.
Which types of parathyroid cancer exist?
Parathyroid cancer comes in two varieties. When cancer cells cause your parathyroid gland to produce and release an excessive amount of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which raises blood calcium levels, this is the more common of the two types.
Non-functioning parathyroid carcinoma (also known as cancer) is the other type of parathyroid cancer. Non-functioning parathyroid cancer differs from the more common form in that it does not cause elevated levels of parathyroid hormone and calcium in the blood. It is extremely uncommon for non-functional parathyroid carcinoma to occur in more than 10% of cases of parathyroid cancer.
Parathyroid cancer is not known to be caused by anything.
Risk factors for parathyroid cancer include the following rare genetic disorders that are passed down through a family member:
- Type I of multiple endocrine neoplasias.
- Isolated hyperparathyroidism in the family (FIHP).
- Syndrome of hyperparathyroidism and a jaw tumor.
- You may also be more likely to develop parathyroid cancer if you have had radiation treatment for your head or neck in the past.
The majority of symptoms of parathyroid cancer are actually signs of hypercalcemia caused by the disease.
- The followings are the signs and symptoms of hypercalcemia:
- Urinating more frequently than usual.
- Having more thirst than normal.
- Being less hungry than usual.
- Being extremely worn out.
- Cramping, weakness, and/or muscle aches.
The following are additional potential signs of parathyroid cancer:
- Experience a lump in the neck.
- Experienced hoarseness or voice changes.
- Difficulty taking in food.
How is Parathyroid Cancer Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of parathyroid cancer can be difficult. This is due, in part, to the similar appearance of parathyroid cancer cells and benign (noncancerous) adenoma cells.
After your abnormal, overactive parathyroid gland has been surgically removed (parathyroidectomy), further tissue testing is typically performed, and a diagnosis of parathyroid cancer is typically made. Occasionally, the surgeon can identify parathyroid cancer during surgery.
To determine if I have parathyroid cancer, what tests will I need?
After your abnormal, overactive parathyroid gland has been surgically removed (parathyroidectomy) due to your diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism, the majority of cases of parathyroid cancer are diagnosed. During surgery, the surgeon may occasionally be able to diagnose parathyroid cancer.
You may have the following tests and procedures performed before you have surgery to remove your overactive parathyroid gland:
- Calcium blood test.
- PTH (parathyroid hormone) test in the blood.
- A parathyroid scan (typically a CT scan or radioactive sestamibi scan).
If you have been diagnosed with parathyroid cancer, your doctor may order the following imaging tests to see if cancer has spread to other parts of your body (metastasized):
- Scans using CT (computerized tomography): A computer and X-rays are used in a CT scan to create numerous three-dimensional images of your body.
- Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI: An MRI produces detailed images of your body by utilizing a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer. It doesn’t use radiation (X-rays).
Treatment for Cancer of the Parathyroid
The most common treatment for parathyroid cancer is en bloc resection, the surgical removal of the cancerous parathyroid gland. If your parathyroid cancer has spread (metastasized), your surgeon may also need to take out cancerous tissue from other parts of your body or the area around your parathyroid gland.
For parathyroid cancer, the following surgical procedures may be utilized:
- Resection in its entirety: Your surgeon will remove the entire capsule surrounding your parathyroid gland. Additionally, your surgeon might have to remove half of your thyroid gland, which is located on the same side as the cancerous parathyroid gland. This is in addition to the tissues, muscles, and nerves that surround it.
- Tumor debulking: Your surgeon will remove as much of the tumor as possible. Some tumors are not completely curable.
- Metastasectomy: Any cancer that has metastasized to other parts of your body, like your lung, will be removed by your surgeon.
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Who might develop parathyroid cancer?
Males and females alike are affected by parathyroid cancer. Most of the time, people over 30 experience it.
How often does parathyroid cancer occur?
Thyroid cancer is extremely uncommon. It is responsible for between 0.5 and 1 percent of parathyroid conditions and 0.005% of all cancers.
What can I do to avoid parathyroid cancer?
Unfortunately, parathyroid cancer prevention is unknown. You can’t even lower your chances of getting this condition. Talk to your doctor if you have a family history of parathyroid conditions.