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Cancer, Parathyroid

CT Scan of Parathyroid Carcinoma Displacing the Trachea. Courtesy Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases

CT Scan of Parathyroid Carcinoma Displacing the Trachea by Doina Piciu. Courtesy Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases

What Is Parathyroid Carcinoma?

Parathyroid carcinoma is a slow growing rare malignancy involving overactive parathyroid glands and is characterized by profound hypercalcemia (elevated blood calcium level), parathyroid hormone levels of more than 3 times upper normal limits, and palpable neck mass.1

Parathyroid carcinoma is a cause of severe hyperparathyroidism. Hyperparathyroidism results from overproduction of parathyroid hormone by the parathyroid glands.

Research comparing patients with carcinoma to patients with primary hyperparathyroidism showed that patients with parathyroid carcinoma had significantly higher serum parathyroid hormone and calcium levels compared with patients with primary hyperparathyroidism.2

Q: Why is the blood calcium level elevated?

A: Blood calcium level is elevated due to overproduction of parathyroid hormone by the diseased gland(s).

The function of parathyroid hormone (PTH) is to keep calcium blood levels normal, which it does by drawing calcium out of bones as needed. The problem of too much PTH is that bone is constantly robbed of calcium and this depletion causes bone demineralization, resulting in osteopenia progressing to osteoporosis. Of course, weakened bones are subject to breakage with light trauma.

On the other hand, too much calcium in the blood can cause kidney stone formation because urine production is the way the body excretes excess calcium. That is, highly concentrated calcium precipitates out of the urine solution to form stones.

With an estimated incidence of 0.015 per 100,000 population and an estimated prevalence of .005% in the United States, parathyroid cancer is one of the rarest of all human cancers according to the National Cancer Institute.

What Is Parathyroid Carcinoma In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?


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  1. Schaapveld M, Jorna FH, Aben KK, Haak HR, Plukker JT, Links TP. Incidence and prognosis of parathyroid gland carcinoma: a population-based study in The Netherlandsestimating the preoperative diagnosis. Am J Surg. 2011 Nov;202(5):590-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2010.09.025. Epub 2011 Aug 20. 

  2. Schaapveld M, Jorna FH, Aben KK, Haak HR, Plukker JT, Links TP. Incidence and prognosis of parathyroid gland carcinoma: a population-based study in The Netherlandsestimating the preoperative diagnosis. Am J Surg. 2011 Nov;202(5):590-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2010.09.025. Epub 2011 Aug 20. 

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