Cancer screening exams can help find parathyroid cancer at its earliest stage when the chances for successful treatment, optimal outcomes and fewer side effects are greatest. These tests are usually done when a patient is healthy and has no specific symptoms.

Not only are expert cancer researchers at the OSUCCC – James continually working to detect and diagnose parathyroid cancer early, but they are also developing additional tests to detect and diagnose cancer even earlier, leading to improved outcomes, faster responses and fewer side effects.

Parathyroid Cancer Risk Factors

Having certain inherited disorders can increase the risk of developing parathyroid cancer.

A risk factor is anything that increases the chance of getting a parathyroid cancer. Risk factors for parathyroid cancer include the following rare disorders that are inherited:

  • Familial isolated hyperparathyroidism (FIHP).
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome.

Treatment with radiation therapy may increase the risk of developing a parathyroid adenoma.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

The presence of risk factors does not necessarily mean you have parathyroid cancer. But if you have risk factors you should discuss them with your doctor.

Diagnosing Parathyroid Cancer

If symptoms suggest you might have parathyroid cancer, your doctor will give you a thorough physical examination and record your medical history, including information about symptoms and any risk factors you may have.

The following tests or procedures can help detect and diagnose parathyroid cancer:

Blood Tests


Blood Chemistry Analysis

A small blood sample is analyzed to measure amounts of substances that indicate disease. For parathyroid cancer, doctors check calcium level.

Parathyroid Hormone Test

The amount of parathyroid hormone in the blood is measured.

Imaging Tests


Sestamibi Scan

A small amount of a radioactive substance is injected into the vein. If the parathyroid gland is overactive, a special camera detects radioactivity as the substance gathers in the gland.

Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan)

A type of X-ray test that produces detailed, cross-sectional images of your body.

Single Photon Emission Tomography Scan (SPECT Scan)

Produces a 3-D image with a special camera linked to a computer that rotates around the patient’s neck. The images highlight areas in which a small amount of an injected radioactive substance collects where cancer cells grow.


A test that uses sound waves and echoes to create a picture of internal organs or masses. Ultrasound can be used to estimate the size of a tumor on the thyroid and whether it is solid or fluid-filled.


Angiography is a type of X-ray procedure that evaluates a patient’s arteries and blood vessels. The patient receives an injection of a small amount of contrast, or dye, which highlights the blood.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Uses a high-powered magnet and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body. Your doctor may use MRI to help stage parathyroid cancer once it is diagnosed.

Venous Sampling

The doctor may take a blood sample from a vein near each parathyroid gland to determine which of the glands is making too much parathyroid hormone.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Staging Parathyroid Cancer

If you receive a parathyroid cancer diagnosis, staging is a way of determining the degree and type of your cancer. This information helps your team of specialists plan your treatment. The staging classification remains the same throughout treatment.

Parathyroid cancer is described as either localized or metastatic, meaning it has spread over tissue.

Localized parathyroid cancer is found in a parathyroid gland and may have spread to nearby tissues.

Metastatic parathyroid cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, bone, sac around the heart, pancreas or lymph nodes.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

If you have received a parathyroid cancer diagnosis, or if you want a second opinion or just want to speak to a parathyroid cancer specialist, we are here to help you. Call 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 West 10th Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43210

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