Parathyroid Cancer - Types and Stages of Parathyroid Cancer

Parathyroid cancer occurs when the cells present in the parathyroid gland begin to divide abnormally and form a parathyroid gland tumor. Recognizing the different parathyroid cancer types and stages is vital for developing personalized treatment plans.

What is Parathyroid Cancer (Parathyroid Carcinoma)?

Parathyroid cancer, also known as parathyroid carcinoma, is a rare malignancy affecting the parathyroid glands. These small glands, located near the thyroid, regulate calcium levels in the body. Parathyroid carcinoma involves the uncontrolled growth of cells in these glands, leading to excessive production of parathyroid hormone (PTH). This condition can result in hypercalcemia, impacting various bodily functions.

What are Parathyroid Glands?

The parathyroid glands are four small, pea-sized structures located behind the thyroid gland in the neck. Despite their small size, these glands play a crucial role in maintaining calcium balance in the body. They accomplish this by producing parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates calcium levels in the blood and influences bone health. Any disruption in the normal function of these glands, such as in parathyroid tumor cancer, can have significant health implications.

Difference Between Parathyroid Cancer and Parathyroid Adenoma

While both parathyroid cancer and parathyroid adenoma involve abnormal growth of cells in the parathyroid glands, they differ in their nature. Parathyroid adenomas are benign tumors that overproduce parathyroid hormone, leading to hypercalcemia. In contrast, parathyroid cancer, or parathyroid carcinoma, represents a malignant form with uncontrolled cell growth, potentially invading surrounding tissues. Appropriate differentiation between the two is crucial for appropriate treatment planning.

How Common is Parathyroid Cancer?

Parathyroid cancer is exceedingly rare, constituting less than 1% of all cases of primary hyperparathyroidism. Its occurrence is estimated to be around 0.005% of all cancer diagnoses. Despite its rarity, early detection and prompt intervention are essential for managing this aggressive form of cancer effectively. Understanding its prevalence aids healthcare professionals in providing informed care for individuals facing this condition.

Types of Parathyroid Cancer

Other Categories of Parathyroid Cancer

What are the Different Parathyroid Cancer Stages?

Parathyroid cancer stages are categorized based on the extent of the disease’s spread. The following are the different stages of parathyroid cancer:


Learning about the crucial aspects of parathyroid cancer, including its types and the different parathyroid cancer stages, is crucial for determining appropriate treatment strategies. Localized cases may be effectively managed with surgical intervention, while metastatic and recurrent stages require a more comprehensive approach. Advances in treatment modalities and ongoing research contribute to improving outcomes and quality of life for individuals facing cancer of the parathyroid gland at various stages.

Frequently Asked Questions

Parathyroid cancer is considered a serious condition due to its rarity and potential for aggressive behavior. While it comprises a small fraction of all parathyroid-related cases, its impact can be significant. Timely diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment approach are crucial for effectively managing parathyroid cancer.

The mortality rate for parathyroid cancer is relatively low compared to other cancers. However, the prognosis can vary based on factors such as the stage of the diagnosis and the extent of tumor spread. Along with the treatment, regular follow-up and monitoring are essential to address any potential recurrence and enhance long-term survival rates.

Parathyroid cancer's "rule of 3" isn't a definitive rule but rather a potential indicator. A few studies suggest that 3 cm+ tumors with calcium levels above 3mmol/L might incidate parathyroid cancer. That said, since it is only a potential indicator, one must visit a specialist for a detailed evaluation.

Unlike many neck masses, parathyroid tumors are typically not palpable or directly felt in the throat. These small glands are situated behind the thyroid and are not easily discernible through physical examination. Symptoms such as difficulty swallowing or a lump sensation in the throat may prompt further investigation to identify the presence of parathyroid tumors.

Parathyroid gland tumors vary in size, but the average size is generally small, often less than 2 centimeters in diameter. However, the size alone does not determine the severity of the condition. Even small parathyroid tumors can lead to significant hormonal imbalances. Early detection through imaging studies is crucial for assessing the size and formulating an appropriate treatment plan.