Parathyroid Cancer Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Tampa General Hospital’s Parathyroid & Thyroid Institute provides world-class care to patients with parathyroid cancer. This rare disease forms in one or more of the parathyroid glands, which are four rice-sized organs located at the base of the neck.

Parathyroid Cancer Causes

The exact cause of parathyroid cancer is not known, although research points to an increased risk among people with hyperparathyroidism jaw tumor syndrome. This cancer is exceptionally rare—it’s believed there are fewer than 100 cases diagnosed in the United States every year, and a person’s lifetime chance of developing parathyroid cancer is about one in 20,000.

Symptoms of Parathyroid Cancer

Because parathyroid cancer affects a hormone-producing organ, it can have a widespread impact on the body. For example, when a benign tumor forms on a parathyroid gland, it may result in a condition known as hyperparathyroidism, which is an overproduction of parathyroid hormone (PTH). This in turn may result in hypercalcemia—or too much calcium in the blood—which can lead to:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney failure
  • Nervous system problems
  • Abnormal heart rhythm

More general symptoms of parathyroid cancer and its possible complications include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Bone pain
  • Weakness
  • Upper back pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting

Diagnosing Parathyroid Cancer

Several tests are used to identify a parathyroid tumor and determine whether it’s cancerous or benign. If a diagnosis of parathyroid cancer is confirmed, additional testing is performed to see if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body and if so, how far. A physician will gather information by asking questions about the patient’s symptoms and ordering appropriate tests to evaluate the parathyroid gland, which may include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Imaging procedures
  • Surgical biopsy

Parathyroid Cancer Treatments

Often, treating parathyroid cancer also involves addressing hypercalcemia and its complications. Many treatment plans involve a combination of:

  • Drugs to reduce calcium levels in the bloodstream
  • Surgery to remove the affected parathyroid gland and tumors
  • Radiation therapy to attack cancer cells with targeted radiation beams
  • Chemotherapy to address cancer that has reached other areas of the body

The uniquely experienced surgeons, oncologists and other specialists at TGH offer advanced, minimally invasive procedures and emerging treatments like immunotherapy to achieve the most successful outcomes for patients.

Become a TGH Patient

To speak with a specialist during a fee-free consultation at TGH’s Parathyroid & Thyroid Institute, call our friendly staff at (813) 844-8335 or complete a patient intake form. TGH is proud to have earned “high performing” designation for Cancer care and is one of the nation’s best hospitals for Ear, Nose and Throat by U.S. News & World Report for 2023-24.