Parathyroid carcinoma is a rare malignancy, representing 0.005% of all cancers and 0.5%-1% of all parathyroid disorders. Parathyroid carcinoma occurs equally in males and females, as opposed to primary hyperparathyroidism, which has a female predominance. Patients with parathyroid carcinoma present with symptoms of hypercalcemia, similar to those with benign primary hyperparathyroidism. Parathyroid carcinoma should be suspected when calcium or parathyroid hormone levels are high. Because of the difficulty of discerning parathyroid carcinoma from adenoma preoperatively, the diagnosis of carcinoma is often made only after parathyroidectomy. The goals of surgery are resection with negative margins because surgery represents the only opportunity for cure. Adjuvant therapy with chemotherapy or external beam radiation has not been proven to affect disease-free or overall survival for these patients. Recurrence is common, with reoperation recommended for resectable recurrent disease. Palliation with calcimimetic pharmacotherapy can aid with management of symptomatic hypercalcemia in recurrent or persistent disease after parathyroidectomy. Ultimately, patients succumb to sequelae of hypercalcemia rather than tumor burden.
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