Medullary thyroid cancer has its origin in the parafollicular cells. These cells, located in the thyroid, produce calcitonin. Also known as C cells, they are found next to the thyroid's follicules.
Around 25% of medullary thyroid cancer occurs in families (known as "familial"), with the other 75% being classified as "sporadic." Sporadic medullary thyroid cancer patients tend to be more advanced in age, and by the time the condition presents clinically, the situation may already be more extensive.
Medullary thyroid cancer sufferers' main symptom is diarrhea. In some cases, the patient may undergo flushing. These symptoms both are especially linked with metastases in the liver. They may be the first thing noted by the patient. Of course, these symptoms can also be seen in other situations and don't always point to this malignancy.
One of the markers that may indicate medullary thyroid cancer is having an increased level of calcitonin in the blood. Bear in mind that the parafollicular cells -- in which this maligancy has its origin -- produce this hormone. Carcinoembryonic antigen, which can be referred to as CEA for short, is another potential marker. Talk with a doctor for professional advice as well as to try to receive a diagnosis.
If detection of the malignancy occurs early enough, surgery is a possibility for treatment. Still, there is a risk that the cancer may recur. Other treatment methods may be employed. One of these is known as external beam radiotherapy. Certain medications are also available and may be useful in some situations. In contrast to many other forms of thyroid cancer, radioiodine therapy is not used to treat this type.
Prognosis for medullary thyroid cancer patients where there is metastasis past the thyroid gland is generally poor compared to follicular and papillary cases. Generally, survival rate is better for individuals whose calcitonin levels only slowly increase, or even decrease. Quick increases in calcitonin levels, especially doubling within 6 months, is associated with a lower survival rate.
Other thyroid cancers include:
Additionally, there are non-cancerous thyroid adenoma tumors.