Parathyroid glands are pea-sized glands located near each corner of the thyroid gland in the neck. Parathyroid glands produce a substance called parathyroid hormone (PTH), which controls the levels of calcium and phosphorous in the blood. PTH also helps the body make vitamin D and helps prevent loss of too much calcium in the urine.
Most people have four parathyroid glands, but some people may be missing a gland or have an extra gland. Sometimes parathyroid glands are located inside the thyroid gland, thymus gland, mediastinum or other places. These misplaced glands can still work normally.
In addition to parathyroid cancer, MD Anderson also treats related parathyroid diseases:
Cancer of the parathyroid glands is extremely rare, with most cases occurring in people with hyperparathyroidism (HPT). Less than 1% of all patients with HPT have cancer in one of their parathyroid glands. Men and women are equally affected by this disease, which usually strikes people in their 50s.
Symptoms of parathyroid cancer may include:
- A lump in the neck
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Muscle weakness
- Sudden spike in blood calcium levels (hypercalcemia)