Treatment of Parathyroid Cancer
Different types of treatment are available for patients with parathyroid cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. Treatment includes control of hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood) in patients who have an overactive parathyroid gland. Four types of standard treatment are used:
SurgerySurgery (removing the cancer in an operation) is the most common treatment for parathyroid cancer that is in the parathyroid glands or has spread to other parts of the body. Because parathyroid cancer grows very slowly, cancer that has spread to other parts of the body may be removed by surgery in order to cure the patient or control the effects of the disease for a long time. Before surgery, treatment is given to control hypercalcemia. The following surgical procedures may be used:
- En bloc resection: Surgery to remove the entire parathyroid gland and the capsule around it. Sometimes lymph nodes, half of the thyroid gland on the same side of the body as the cancer, and muscles, tissues, and a nerve in the neck are also removed.
- Tumor debulking: Surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Sometimes, not all of the tumor can be removed.
- Metastasectomy: Surgery to remove any cancer that has spread to distant organs such as the lung.
Radiation TherapyRadiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
ChemotherapyChemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
Clinical trialsA clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment. New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
Supportive CareSupportive care is given to lessen the problems caused by the disease or its treatment. Supportive care for hypercalcemia caused by parathyroid cancer may include the following:
- Intravenous (IV) fluids.
- Drugs that increase how much urine the body makes.
- Drugs that stop the body from absorbing calcium from the food we eat.
- Drugs that stop the parathyroid gland from making parathyroid hormone.