Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

What is a parathyroid tumor?

The parathyroid glands are located in the front of the neck near the thyroid gland. A parathyroid tumor is a growth inside a parathyroid gland. Parathyroid tumors may cause increased levels of parathyroid hormones secreted by the parathyroid glands, leading to hyperparathyroidism. Most parathyroid tumors are benign (noncancerous) adenomas. Cancers of the parathyroid are very rare.

Anatomy of the parathyroid glands

The parathyroid glands are two pairs of small, oval-shaped glands located adjacent to the two thyroid gland lobes in the neck.

Function of the parathyroid glands

Parathyroid glands produce parathyroid hormone, which plays a role in the regulation of calcium levels in the blood. Precise calcium levels are important in the human body, since small deviations can cause muscle and nerve impairment.

The parathyroid hormone stimulates the following functions:

  • Release of calcium by bones into the bloodstream.
  • Absorption of food by the intestines.
  • Conservation of calcium by the kidneys.