What is Parathyroid Adenoma?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2019
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Located just behind the thyroid gland in the neck are the parathyroid glands. These are very important and play a role in releasing hormones that regulate certain substances in the body. These substances like calcium and vitamin D can have enormous effect on bone stability and health. This especially can occur when a tumor appears on one the glands. Called a parathyroid adenoma, this is not a cancerous tumor, but it still needs to be addressed because it can create significant health issues.

Usually, the cause of a parathyroid adenoma is dysfunction of the parathyroid glands. A condition may emerge, known as hyperparathyroidism, where enlargement of one of the glands can occur. This results in high calcium levels or low vitamin D levels depending on type. This condition may not be initially noticed unless levels of one or more of these substances are checked. What is more likely to be observed is that people with parathyroid adenoma, who are most often females who are 60 years old or more, will display some fairly common symptoms.

It’s not uncommon for people with parathyroid adenoma to have a high level of fatigue or tiredness. Some people with this condition also complain of a sense of overall achiness, especially in the muscles. Another very common symptom, since vitamin D may be depleted, is fracture of one or more bones, suggesting osteoporosis, though bone loss may not have reached this state.


There are other reported symptoms, which may vary in severity, and these include bouts of nausea or constipation. High calcium levels can also result in stones in the urinary tract. When many of these symptoms are present, and particularly if blood levels show results consistent with hyperparathyroidism, doctors usually suspect this condition and order a few more tests.

The most significant of these tests are scans to look at the glands for presence of a parathyroid adenoma. Such scans could include several different types. Doctors might recommend, x-ray, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to properly visualize the parathyroid. Another screening called the Sestamibi scan is often used to localize the tumor to one of the glands because these are typically so small, other scans may not be adequate in pinpointing the adenoma. This visualization then helps to determine treatment.

Sometimes no treatment except observation is warranted. The blood levels might be regulated by giving parathyroid hormone supplements or by prescribing estrogen. This latter tactic is not always looked on with favor, since estrogen treatment do increase risk for certain cancers.

What generally is first line treatment for parathyroid adenoma is to do surgery and remove the adenoma and the gland it is present on. This usually restores function to the three remaining glands, and tends to be a short procedure, minimally invasive, and sometimes performed on an outpatient basis. With surgery many people recover well, though some people might continue to need support to regulate parathyroid hormone or the important substances the hormones help to control.



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