by Archan Kakadekar MD and Jason K Wasserman MD PhD FRCPC
October 20, 2022
A parathyroid adenoma is a non-cancerous type of parathyroid gland tumour. The is made up of cells normally found in the parathyroid gland. Unlike the normal parathyroid glands, a parathyroid adenoma may be large enough to be felt or seen in the front of the neck. Parathyroid adenomas are more common in women in the sixth and seventh decades of life. Parathyroid adenomas make and release large amounts of parathyroid hormone which results in a condition called hyperparathyroidism.
Symptoms of a parathyroid adenoma include involuntary shaking (tremor), nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and confusion. These symptoms are caused by high levels of calcium in the blood which develops in response to increased production of parathyroid hormone by the tumour. Hypercalcemia is the medical term used to describe abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood. Hyperparathyroidism is the medical term used to describe high levels of parathyroid hormone in the blood.
Most parathyroid adenomas are sporadic which means doctors do not know what causes them. However, some genetic syndromes such as multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) and familial isolated hyperparathyroidism (FIHP), greatly increase a person’s risk for developing these tumours.
The diagnosis is made after the tumour is surgically removed and the tissue is sent to a pathologist for examination under a microscope.