Parathyroid cancer

Treatment

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) treats the full range of cancers that can affect endocrine glands, including your parathyroid glands. Our endocrine tumor experts are UW Medicine doctors who also see patients at University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC). They work together closely to provide coordinated, world-class treatment for you.

A diagnosis of cancer can feel overwhelming. We have an experienced, compassionate team ready to help, and we are dedicated to making you well.

Parathyroid cancer expertise at SCCA

Everything you need is here

We have surgeons, endocrinologists, nuclear medicine doctors, pathologists and medical and radiation oncologists who specialize in parathyroid cancer; the most advanced diagnostic, treatment and recovery programs; and extensive support. Few medical centers in the United States have the level of expertise available at SCCA and UWMC.

Parathyroid cancer treatment tailored to you

Combining their knowledge, skills and experience, your specialists recommend a treatment plan to get the best possible results in your individual situation. This collaboration continues through your care. Each month, our surgeons, endocrinologists and pathologists come together at a meeting called the endocrine tumor board at UWMC. They review your case, share their opinions and combine their expertise to ensure you get the best treatment for your disease. 

Team-based approach

We view treatment as a collaborative effort. Your personal team includes more than your parathyroid cancer doctors and nurses. Additional experts who specialize in treating people with cancer will be involved if you need them — experts like a palliative care professional, social worker, dietitian or pharmacist.

Ongoing care and support

During and after treatment, your team continues to provide follow-up care on a schedule tailored to you. The SCCA Survivorship Clinic is also here to help you live your healthiest life as a parathyroid cancer survivor.

Treatment types

Treatment looks different for different people depending on your diagnosis. We tailor your treatment plan to you. Learn more about the treatment types offered at SCCA. 

Hypercalcemia

Having too much calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia) is a common effect of parathyroid cancer. If you have high blood calcium, this is one of the first things your SCCA team will address. We will provide treatments to reduce your blood calcium and relieve any related symptoms you might have. 

Typical treatments include:

  • Getting intravenous (IV) fluids and taking medicines (diuretics) to help your body excrete calcium through your urine
  • Taking medicines to keep your body from absorbing calcium from food
  • Taking medicines to keep your parathyroid from making parathyroid hormone (which controls your blood calcium level)

These are usually short-term treatments, used until doctors can take out your tumor surgically.

Hypercalcemia

Having too much calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia) is a common effect of parathyroid cancer. If you have high blood calcium, this is one of the first things your SCCA team will address. We will provide treatments to reduce your blood calcium and relieve any related symptoms you might have. 

Surgery

The most common treatment for parathyroid cancer is surgery to remove all of the parathyroid gland and tumor. Based on the extent of the cancer, surgeons may also need to remove other tissues right around or near the parathyroid. This might include lymph nodes in the area, part of your thyroid gland or muscles in your neck. 

Your SCCA team will talk with you in detail about the surgery they recommend for you, why and what to expect. We’re here to help you through the entire process — before, during and after your surgery — including preventing and dealing with any possible side effects.

Surgery

The most common treatment for parathyroid cancer is surgery to remove all of the parathyroid gland and tumor. Based on the extent of the cancer, surgeons may also need to remove other tissues right around or near the parathyroid. This might include lymph nodes in the area, part of your thyroid gland or muscles in your neck. 

Radiation therapy

People with parathyroid cancer sometimes have external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT): 

  • After surgery to decrease the chance that the cancer will return
  • As a main treatment if surgery isn’t possible

If your cancer has spread to other parts of your body, radiation therapy may also be helpful for treating those specific spots.

EBRT aims high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation at your body to kill cancer cells. 

Radiation therapy

People with parathyroid cancer sometimes have external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT).

Chemotherapy

Your doctors may recommend chemotherapy too, mainly to help control cancer if it has spread to other parts of your body. Usually chemotherapy medicines are given by infusion into a vein. Some are taken by mouth in pill form. 

Your SCCA team will talk with you about the specific drugs we recommend for you, how you’ll receive them, your treatment schedule and what to expect. We’ll also explain how to take the best possible care of yourself during treatment and after, and we’ll connect you with medical and support resources throughout SCCA.

Chemotherapy

Your doctors may recommend chemotherapy too, mainly to help control cancer if it has spread to other parts of your body. Usually chemotherapy medicines are given by infusion into a vein. Some are taken by mouth in pill form.