Medullary carcinoma of the thyroid is a malignancy of the thyroid gland arising from the C cell, which secretes the hormone calcitonin.
Alternative Names: Thyroid - medullary carcinoma; Cancer - thyroid (medullary carcinoma)
Causes, incidence, and risk factors:
The cause is unknown, but is not thought to be related to radiation therapy, as opposed to other thyroid cancers. Thyroid function tests are usually normal. Risk factors are a family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN), a prior history of pheochromocytoma, mucosal neuromas, or hyperparathyroidism.
The average age at diagnosis is the mid-40s, except in patients with inherited cancer syndromes, in which the cancer often occurs earlier. Approximately 700 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. The condition runs in the family about 20% of the time.
Other types of thyroid cancer are papillary carcinoma of the thyroid, anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid, follicular tumor of the thyroid, thyroid lymphoma, and metastatic thyroid cancer.
Signs and tests:
Surgical removal of the thyroid gland, as well as surrounding lymph nodes, is the initial treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation are not very effective.
The risks of surgery include accidental removal of parathyroid glands or nerve tissue of the larynx, which leads to serious complications.
For additional resources, see cancer support group.
The expectation for this type of thyroid cancer varies, depending on the removal of all cancerous tissue. The 10-year survival rate (percentage of people who live at least 10 years after diagnosis) is 70 - 80%.
Calling your health care provider:
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms of this disorder develop.
Prevention may not be possible. However, being aware of your risk factors, especially a family history, may allow early diagnosis and treatment.