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Thyroid cancer - CT scan
Thyroid cancer - CT scan


Thyroid gland
Thyroid gland


Definition:

Medullary carcinoma of the thyroid is cancer of the thyroid gland that starts in cells that release a hormone called calcitonin. Such cells are called "C" cells.



Alternative Names:

Thyroid - medullary carcinoma; Cancer - thyroid (medullary carcinoma); MTC



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

The cause is unknown. Unlike other types of thyroid cancer, medullary carcinoma of the thyroid (MTC) is believed to be related to radiation therapy (a type of cancer treatment).

There are two forms of MTC:

  • Sporadic MTC does not run in families. Most MTCs are sporadic. This form mainly affects older adults.
  • Inherited MTC runs in families.

You have an increased risk of medullary carcinoma of the thyroid if you have:

Other types of thyroid cancer include:



Symptoms:

Signs and tests:

The health care provider will perform a physical exam. Lymph nodes in the neck may be swollen. Thyroid function tests are usually normal. However, an examination of the thyroid may reveal single or multiple nodules (lumps).

Other tests that may be used to diagnose medullary carcinoma of the thyroid include:



Treatment:

Treatment involves surgery to remove the thyroid gland and surrounding lymph nodes. Because this is an uncommon tumor, surgery should be performed by a surgeon who is familiar with this type of cancer.

Chemotherapy and radiation do not work very well for this type of cancer. Radiation is used in some patients after surgery. There are a number of new treatments currently being investigated in clinical trials.



Support Groups:

For additional information, see cancer support groups .



Expectations (prognosis):

Approximately 86% of those with medullary carcinoma of the thyroid live at least 5 years after diagnosis. The 10-year survival rate is 65%.



Complications:

Complications may include:

  • Cancer spreads to other areas of the body
  • Parathyroid glands are accidentally removed during surgery


Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of medullary carcinoma of the thyroid.



Prevention:

Prevention may not be possible. However, being aware of your risk factors, especially your family history, may allow for early diagnosis and treatment.



References: Ball DW. Medullary thyroid cancer: monitoring and therapy. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2007;36(3):823-837.


Review Date: 3/21/2008
Reviewed By: Stephen Grund, MD, PhD, Chief of Hematology/Oncology and Director of the George Bray Cancer Center at New Britain General Hospital, New Britain, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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