Dancing with the Stars Alan Bersten reveals he needed surgery after finding a tumor in his neck
(PEOPLE) At 23 years old, Alan Bersten never imagined he would be faced with a life changing diagnosis.
The pro dancer was on tour with Dancing with the Stars: Live! when he started experiencing sharp stomach pains that would last for about a minute and then disappear.
After getting tests done at an Urgent Care, Bersten found out his blood had a high level of calcium.
“At first [the doctors] were like, ‘Oh, it’s probably not a big deal. You’re probably just taking some supplements,’” Bersten tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I went back on the road the next day, and my stomach stopped hurting.”
Though he says he felt “fine,” Bersten’s mother pushed him to go back to the doctor to get another blood test.
A week later, he got the results and found that it was not supplements causing this but rather a tumor on one of his parathyroid glands.
There are four of these very small glands located on the thyroid gland in the neck that produce parathyroid hormone (PTH), which helps control the amount of calcium in the blood.
A tumor, like Bersten’s, causes the affected gland to release more PTH than it should and disrupts the balance of calcium in the blood. It’s still unknown how people develop the disorder, but it’s typically most common in older women.
Bersten was told that to treat this potentially fatal condition — called hyperparathyroidism — an endocrinologist would have to remove the tumor and check if it was malignant (cancerous) or benign (non cancerous).
“Just the word tumor is so frightening,” he says. “I didn’t know what malignant or benign meant until I looked it up and I was like, ‘Well hopefully it’s benign — God forbid I have cancer.’ That is more stress than I could ever imagine.” Read the full story at People.