Located in the neck behind the thyroid gland, four tiny parathyroid glands control your body's bone and blood calcium levels. Parathyroid cancers are very rare. When they do occur, they typically cause high levels of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia), increasing your risk of osteoporosis and possibly damage to organs such as the kidneys, bones, heart, and blood vessels. At NewYork-Presbyterian, our head and neck cancer specialists and endocrine cancer experts have experience diagnosing and treating parathyroid cancer and will customize a plan of care that meets your needs.
A Team of Parathyroid Cancer Experts
Our parathyroid cancer specialists include head and neck surgeons, endocrine surgeons, endocrinologists, genetic counselors, speech therapists, and others with the skills and experience needed to treat this rare cancer. They collaborate to tailor a personalized treatment regimen for each of our patients.
Genetic Counseling and Testing
Some families with inherited cancer syndromes, such as familial isolated hyperparathyroidism (FIHP), have an increased risk of parathyroid cancer. We provide genetic counseling and testing for patients and their families with these syndromes. If you learn your family has a genetic mutation that increases your risk for parathyroid cancer, we may monitor you and recommend certain measures to decrease your risk.
Minimally Invasive Parathyroid Surgery
Parathyroid cancers rarely affect more than one of the four glands, and typically only the cancerous gland needs to be removed—resulting in a cure in more than 95 percent of patients. At NewYork-Presbyterian, our surgeons perform minimally invasive parathyroid surgery in nearly all patients. In addition to using very small incisions, they try to "hide" the incision in a natural skin crease, reducing its visibility.
- The surgery can be performed under local anesthesia. Your surgeon monitors levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH) in your body at the beginning of the procedure and then again 10 minutes after the gland has been removed to see if the level has dropped. An appropriate drop in your PTH level confirms that your operation has been successful before you leave the operating room.
- After your operation, your team will follow you closely with periodic blood tests and imaging tests to see if your cancer comes back. If it does, we'll perform another operation to remove as much of the cancer as possible. You may also take a medication called cinacalcet, which tricks your body into lowering blood calcium levels.
Speech Therapy after Surgery
Parathyroid carcinoma can sometimes invade or involve one of the nerves that supply your vocal cords. Your team includes speech therapists to help you communicate effectively if your voice is affected by a parathyroid cancer or the surgery. Our goal is to effectively treat your cancer while helping you maintain function and quality of life.