Parathyroid Tumor

What is a parathyroid tumor?

A parathyroid tumor is a growth inside a parathyroid gland. The parathyroid glands are 4 small, pea-sized glands located in your neck near the thyroid gland. They’re part of the endocrine system. This system controls hormones in your body. The parathyroid glands make parathyroid hormone. This regulates the levels of calcium and phosphorus in your blood. Parathyroid tumors may increase the levels of parathyroid hormones. This leads to more calcium in your blood. This is called hypercalcemia. Most parathyroid tumors are benign (noncancerous) adenomas. Parathyroid cancers are very rare.

What are symptoms of a parathyroid tumor?

If the parathyroid tumor causes symptoms, they may include:

  • Aches and pains, especially in your bones

  • Kidney problems, including pain in your upper back or side

  • Depression

  • Stomach pain

  • Loss of appetite and intense thirst

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Fatigue

  • Constipation

  • Urinating more than normal

  • Confusion

  • Muscle weakness

The symptoms of a parathyroid tumor may look like other health issues. Only your healthcare provider can diagnose you with this condition. See your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms.

Treatment for a parathyroid tumor

Surgery is the main treatment for parathyroid tumors. The goal is to remove as much of it as possible. Before surgery, you may need treatment to control the amount of calcium in your blood.

In some cases, a parathyroid tumor doesn’t need to be taken out. It may only need to be removed if your calcium level has reached a certain point or if you have severe symptoms.

If the tumor is cancer, you may need radiation therapy. This is done to kill the cancer cells or help keep them from growing and spreading. Chemotherapy may also be used to help do the same thing. In some situations, you may need medicines that lower calcium levels in your blood.

Talk with your health-care provider

If you have questions about parathyroid tumor or parathyroid cancer, talk with your health-care provider. Your health-care provider can help you understand more about it and how to best treat it.

Treatment Neck Surgery’s Scarless Alternative

More than a year after her initial sore throat, Gwen met with head and neck surgeon Jonathon Russell at Johns Hopkins to discuss a thyroidectomy. When she explained her symptoms, such as low bone density, fatigue and kidney stones, Russell ordered additional tests. “Her symptoms were not consistent with what I would have expected,” he recalls. The test revealed abnormally high calcium, vitamin D and parathyroid hormone levels in her blood.

Russell formally diagnosed Gwen with hyperparathyroidism caused by a parathyroid nodule.

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