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Medullary Thyroid Cancer
Sunday, 01 March 2009 12:18


What is thyroid medullary carcinoma?  What should I expect?


Medullary carcinoma accounts for 5-10% of all thyroid cancers.  This cancer is of non-thyroid cells.  It does not respond well to traditional radioactive iodine treatment.  This cancer tends to run in the family.  Medullary carcinoma is more aggressive then both papillary and follicular carcinoma.  The prognosis is good.


Medullary Carcinoma is cancer of non-thyroid tissue.  This cancer comes from the parafollicular C cells.  Parafollicular C cells secrete calcitonin and CEA that can be measured with a blood test. One’s endocrinologist will initially test for this to rule out this type of cancer.  If one is diagnosed with medullary carcinoma they will also be occasionally monitor with the calcitonin and CEA levels.  This will help determine recurrences and success of the tumor removal.


Medullary carcinoma occurs spontaneously 70% of the time between the ages of 50-60 years old.1   It can also occur in younger patients as an inherited condition.  One can be genetically screened for the RET proto-oncogene which can lead to early diagnosis and treatment to improve the prognosis.

Thyroid surgery (total thyroidectomy) is the treatment for medullary carcinoma.  This cancer can be very aggressive especially in the younger patients.  Chemotherapy will often be initiated.


Overall, 10 year survival rate is 60-75% however if the cancer has spread to the cervical nodes the 10 year survival rate decreases to 45%.1

Last Updated on Friday, 17 February 2012 11:31

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