Hyperparathyroidism (HPT) is a medical condition in which one or more of the parathyroid glands responsible for calcium regulation in the blood becomes enlarged, begins to produce extra amounts of parathyroid hormone (PTH), and increases the level of calcium in the blood. In rare instances, however, HPT may be linked to parathyroid cancer or the development of other cancers.

Hyperparathyroidism Due to Parathyroid Cancer: Here’s What You Need to Know

Parathyroid cancer refers to a rare form of cancer in which malignant cells develop in parathyroid gland tissue. In this instance, one of the parathyroid glands becomes hyperactive, resulting in very high production of PTH. This causes calcium kept in the bones to enter the bloodstream, and the intestines to absorb more calcium from foods as they are consumed. The result: hypercalcemia, a medical condition in which calcium in the blood exceeds a normal level. In the case of parathyroid cancer, the level of calcium can rise quickly and become extremely high.

HPT jaw tumor (HPT-JT) is a very rare inherited condition linked to the development of parathyroid cancer, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. This tumor occurs due to mutations of the CDC73 gene which makes a protein that serves as a tumor suppressor. HPT-JT patients who experience these mutations are more susceptible than others to parathyroid cancer.

Hypercalcemia that occurs in combination with parathyroid cancer can be serious and life-threatening. A person with high calcium levels should seek immediate medical treatment, so they can cure themselves of the cancer and safely address their symptoms.

A Closer Look at the Symptoms of HPT, Hypercalcemia, and Parathyroid Cancer

The symptoms of HPT include:

  •     Fatigue
  •     Difficulty concentrating
  •     Forgetfulness
  •     Irritability
  •     Headaches
  •     Poor sleep
  •     Anxiety
  •     Gastrointestinal issues like heartburn and acid reflux
  •     Bone pain
  •     Osteoporosis

Symptoms of hypercalcemia may replicate those of HPT. In fact, common symptoms of hypercalcemia include:

  •     Stomach pain
  •     Constipation
  •     Bone pain
  •     Muscle weakness
  •     Frequent urination
  •     Lethargy
  •     Heart problems

The symptoms of parathyroid cancer are similar to those of both HPT and hypercalcemia, too. These symptoms include:

  •     Loss of appetite
  •     Weight loss for no apparent reason
  •     Difficulty thinking clearly
  •     Tiredness
  •     Abdomen, side, and/or back pain
  •     Trouble swallowing
  •     Lump in the neck

People who experience any symptoms of HPT, hypercalcemia, and/or parathyroid cancer should consult with a doctor right away. In doing so, they can undergo myriad tests to determine if they are dealing with one or more of the aforementioned conditions. At this point, patients can also find out if they are coping with other types of cancer. 

Is Hyperparathyroidism Linked to Other Types of Cancer?

Debates persist about the link between HPT and different types of cancer. Research is ongoing into a potential link between HPT and cancer, and a study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine shows there may be a correlation between HPT and abnormal growth of cells or tissue (neoplasia) in the breasts, skin, and kidneys.

In the study, researchers investigated neoplasia in patients dealing with osteoporosis or hypercalcemia. Among these patients, 163 had primary HPT (PHPT). Researchers measured all patients’ PTH and vitamin D levels and the presence of cancer for the 10 years prior to the study’s launch.

The study revealed breast, skin, and kidney cancer rates were higher in patients dealing with PHPT than all other patients. Study researchers also recognized that the role of PTH in cancer development remains unclear. But, the fact that cancer may persist after a PHPT patient undergoes parathyroid gland treatment shows PTH may increase their risk of neoplasia, researchers indicated.

Along with breast, skin, and kidney cancer, HPT may also be linked to thyroid cancer.

What Is Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer refers to cancer involving the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the neck. People coping with thyroid cancer experience an overgrowth of abnormal cells in the thyroid gland.

The thyroid gland produces hormones used to manage various body functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. If there is an overgrowth of cancer cells in the thyroid gland, the gland may start to malfunction. When this happens, body functions are affected, and thyroid cancer can develop.

There are four types of thyroid cancer:

  •     Papillary Thyroid: This form of thyroid cancer is the most common, and it tends to form in one lobe in the thyroid gland.
  •     Follicular: Follicular cancer is more prevalent in people who lack sufficient iodine in their diets than others.
  •     Medullary: A rare type of thyroid cancer, medullary cancer impacts C-cells, which makes calcitonin that helps regulate the amount of calcium in the blood.
  •     Anaplastic: This type of thyroid cancer tends to spread quickly to the neck and other parts of the body.

Common symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

  •     Persistent cough
  •     Voice changes
  •     Neck pain that can extend up to the ears
  •     Neck swelling
  •     Difficulty breathing and/or swallowing

A study published in BMC Surgery was used to evaluate the presence of thyroid cancer in 217 PHPT and secondary HPT (SHPT) patients. Among these patients, 75 PHPT patients underwent surgery to remove some or all of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) followed by a parathyroidectomy, and 31 SHPT patients received both a thyroidectomy and a parathyroidectomy.

In the study, researchers found the incidence of papillary thyroid cancer (carcinomas) was similar in both PHPT and SHPT patients. Furthermore, researchers only discovered thyroid tumors above 1 cm in patients dealing with PHPT.

If thyroid cancer goes unaddressed, it can spread to the lungs, bones, and other parts of the body. Therefore, if people experience any symptoms of thyroid cancer, meet with a doctor for proper diagnosis or treatment. A doctor can also determine if a patient is experiencing thyroid cancer in combination with HPT.

Can Hyperparathyroidism and Thyroid Cancer Occur at the Same Time?

Research indicates patients may simultaneously experience HPT and thyroid cancer.

In one study, researchers performed a retrospective review of patients who underwent surgery for HPT between 1975 and 1996. Researchers found that 21 patients had a papillary carcinoma, and one patient had a follicular carcinoma. They also indicated that patients with HPT and a history of head and neck irradiation faced a greater risk of thyroid carcinoma than others.

Comparatively, another study was used to examine four patients dealing with primary HPT (PHPT). The study indicated PHPT patients may face an increased risk of thyroid cancer in contrast to others. Yet, false-positive results of thyroid cancer were reported in around 10% of PHPT cases. To alleviate this issue, researchers suggested PHPT patients undergo an ultrasound to examine the thyroid gland. They also stated that surgical flexibility is key, and surgeons should get a thyroid nodule sample as part of their efforts to properly diagnose and treat PHPT and thyroid cancer.

Why You Need to Take the First Step to Treat Parathyroid and Thyroid Gland Issues

A malfunctioning parathyroid or thyroid gland won’t correct itself, and the longer an abnormal gland malfunctions, the more harm it can cause to the body. Over time, parathyroid and thyroid gland issues can cause HPT, along with hypercalcemia and cancer. Fortunately, with a proactive approach to diagnosis and treatment, anyone can get the help they need to manage their parathyroid and thyroid gland problems.

Dr. Babak Larian of the CENTER for Advanced Parathyroid Surgery is a parathyroid expert who knows how to safely and effectively treat HPT. He performs a minimally invasive parathyroidectomy (MIP) that has a high success rate and causes minimal scarring. Plus, an MIP can usually be completed in under 20 minutes and is followed by a 4 gland assessment that ensures patients can maximize their surgery results.

For those who believe they may be dealing with HPT, hypercalcemia, or cancer of the parathyroid glands or thyroid gland, Dr. Larian is available to help. By scheduling a free consultation with Dr. Larian, a patient can receive a comprehensive evaluation and find out an MIP can be used to treat their symptoms. To learn more or to set up a consultation with Dr. Larian, please contact the CENTER online or call us today at 310-461-0300.


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