Parathyroid Tumors

Most tumors of the parathyroid glands are not cancerous. In fact, parathyroid cancers are very rare. Should they occur, however, it is reassuring to know that highly trained specialists at the Beaumont Cancer Institute can diagnose and treat parathyroid tumors using the latest surgical, radiation and chemotherapy protocols. The multidisciplinary oncology team at Beaumont consists of a surgeon (ear, nose and throat, or ENT), medical oncologist and radiation oncologist. The knowledge they have gained in cutting-edge research is constantly being implemented to improve treatments and outcomes.

For more information about Beaumont's Head & Neck Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic call 877-BEAT-CANCER (877-232-8226).

What is a parathyroid tumor?

The parathyroid gland is located in the front of the neck near the thyroid gland. A parathyroid tumor is a growth inside a parathyroid gland. Parathyroid tumors may cause increased levels of parathyroid hormones secreted by the parathyroid glands, leading to hyperparathyroidism. Most parathyroid tumors are benign (noncancerous) adenomas. Cancers of the parathyroid are very rare.

What are symptoms of a parathyroid tumor?

If the parathyroid tumor causes hyperparathyroidism, symptoms may include:

  • aches and pains
  • depression
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • excessive urination
  • confusion
  • muscle weakness

The symptoms of a parathyroid tumor may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Treatment for a parathyroid tumor

Specific treatment for a parathyroid tumor will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • surgery (to remove the tumor)
  • external radiation (external beam therapy) - a treatment that precisely sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells. The machine is controlled by the radiation therapist. Since radiation is used to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors, special shields may be used to protect the tissue surrounding the treatment area. Radiation treatments are painless and usually last a few minutes.
  • chemotherapy - the use of anticancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell's ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells. The oncologist will recommend a treatment plan for each individual.

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