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The endocrine system produces the hormones that regulate activity in the body’s organs and cells. A tumor in the endocrine system may begin to make hormones and cause serious illness throughout the body. In terms of head and neck cancers, endocrine tumors may develop in the parathyroid and the thyroid glands. At UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health, we treat both benign and malignant endocrine tumors.
There are four parathyroid glands, which regulate the amount of calcium and phosphorous in the blood. Cancerous growth or other parathyroid tumors may cause the amount of calcium in the blood to rise, a condition known as hypercalcemia.
Also at risk is the thyroid gland, which is located in the front of the neck and controls and produces hormones that regulate metabolism. There are four main types of thyroid cancer - papillary, follicular, medullary and anaplastic. Papillary and follicular thyroid cancers are slow growing and the most common. They also typically have good outcomes when diagnosed early and in patients younger than 45-years old.
Medullary thyroid cancer, also known as MTC, is not common and may be the result of a genetic syndrome called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2). If diagnosed and treated before it spreads throughout the body, this cancer may be controlled.
Anaplastic thyroid cancer is rare and may be more difficult to treat because it grows quickly.