Medullary thyroid cancer is one of the types of thyroid cancer. This type of thyroid cancer is more common in women than in men. Medullary thyroid cancer usually originates in the upper central lobe of the thyroid. During the early stage of medullary thyroid cancer, the cancer cells spread to the lymph nodes. If left untreated, it may develop and spread to other distant organs in the body such as the brain, bone and liver. Medullary thyroid cancer also occurs in four clinical settings that are associated to other endocrine tumors.
Medullary Thyroid Cancer Symptoms
Symptoms of medullary thyroid cancer vary. It depends on the stage or how far the cancer cells have already spread in the body. Just like any type of thyroid cancer, it does not often show any symptoms. However as the cancer cells spread and grow, an individual may feel pain in the throat or neck, hoarseness or difficulty speaking in a normal voice and difficulty in swallowing or breathing. An individual may also notice that there is a lump or a nodule on the front of the neck.
On the other hand, these symptoms may not be caused by medullary thyroid cancer at all. These symptoms may also be caused by other infections or goiter. If and when an individual feels any of these symptoms, it is best to go and see a doctor. Only a doctor can diagnose the cause of these symptoms and provide proper treatment.
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Calcitonin and Medullary Thyroid Cancer
Calcitonin is a hormone known to participate specifically in the calcium and phosphorus metabolism in the body. Individuals, who are treated from medullary thyroid cancer, undergo calcitonin test to assess the effectiveness of the medullary thyroid cancer treatment and to gauge recurrence, if any. Stimulation tests are also done since this is more sensitive than calcitonin tests. Stimulation test are performed to stimulate calcitonin production. After this test is performed, blood samples are collected to check the effect of the stimulation. Medullary thyroid cancer patients normally have high levels of calcitonin during this test.
Interesting Questions about Thyroid:
Common signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- fast heart rate (100-120 beats per minute, or higher)
- nervousness or irritability
- increased perspiration
- muscle weakness (especially in the shoulders, hips, and thighs)
- trembling hands
- weight loss, in spite of a good appetite.
Common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- slow heart rate (less than 70 beats per minute)
- feel slow or tired
- drowsy during the day, even after sleeping all night
- poor memory
- difficulty concentrating
- muscle cramps, numb arms and legs
- weight gain
- heavy menstrual flow.
What are hot and cold nodules?
Thyroid nodules do not function like normal thyroid tissue. A thyroid image (scan) done with a radioactive chemical shows the size, shape, and function of the gland and of thyroid nodules. A nodule that takes up more of the radioactive material than the rest of the gland is called a hot nodule.
A nodule that takes up less radioactive material is a cold nodule. Hot nodules are seldom cancerous, but less than 10% of all nodules are hot. Cold nodules may or may not be cancerous. All lumps should be checked by your doctor.
How do doctors test nodules for cancer?
Your doctor can use several tests to find out whether or not a thyroid lump is cancerous.
- A thyroid image or scan shows the size, shape, and function of the gland. It uses a tiny amount of a radioactive chemical, usually iodine or technetium, which the thyroid absorbs from the blood. A special camera then creates a picture, showing how much iodine was absorbed by each part of the gland.
- In needle aspiration biopsy, a small needle is inserted into the nodule in an effort to suck out (aspirate) cells. If the nodule is a fluid-filled cyst, the aspiration often removes some or all of the fluid. If the nodule is solid, several small samples are removed for examination under the microscope. In over 90% of all cases, this testing tells the doctor whether the lump is benign or malignant.
- Ultrasound uses high-pitch sound waves to find out whether a nodule is solid or filled with fluid. About 10% of lumps are fluid-filled cysts, and they are usually not cancerous. Ultrasound may also detect other nodules that are not easily felt by the doctor. The presence of multiple nodules reduces the likelihood of cancer.
How are nodules treated?
Nodules that are thought to be benign are usually observed at regular intervals. Some patients may be advised to take thyroid hormone pills. In certain instances, the nodule may be surgically removed because of continuing growth, pressure symptoms in the neck, or for cosmetic reasons.
Fluid-filled cysts that come back after several aspirations may need to be removed.
If the testing shows a nodule that is, or might be, malignant (cancerous), your doctor will recommend surgery. (You should discuss special situations, such as pregnancy, with your doctor.) The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. If the cancer is found in the early stages when it is still confined to the thyroid gland, the surgery is almost always successful. With papillary cancer, patients usually do well after treatment, even if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.
The surgeon starts by removing one lobe of the thyroid. This specimen is tested during surgery (frozen section) to tell the surgeon whether it is benign or malignant. If it is malignant, most or all of the thyroid is removed. If the cancer has spread, lymph nodes in the neck may also have to be removed. In addition, in patients with either papillary or follicular cancer, radioactive iodine therapy may be needed six weeks after surgery to destroy any remaining cancerous tissue.
What happens after surgery?
After surgery, patients must stay in the hospital for one to three days. They may also need to take some time off from work (one to two weeks for a desk job; three to four weeks for physical labor). Most patients do not have any trouble speaking or swallowing, and they report minimal pain after the surgery. In patients with thyroid cancer, a scan may be done approximately six weeks after surgery to detect any residual thyroid tissue that needs to be treated with radioactive iodine.
Patients with thyroid cancer will need to take thyroid hormone their entire lives. Some patients who have had a noncancerous nodule removed will also be advised to take thyroid hormone pills. These may prevent new nodules from forming in the remaining portion of the thyroid gland.
If you or a blood relative has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Graves’ disease, there is a chance that your children will inherit the problem. These diseases are also linked to other autoimmune conditions, such as premature gray hair, diabetes mellitus, arthritis, and patchy loss of skin pigment (vitiligo). You should tell your child’s doctor, so that the appropriate examinations can be performed.
Also, one out of every 4,000 infants is born without a working thyroid gland. If the problem is not corrected, the child will become mentally and physically retarded. Therefore, all newborns in the United States are tested for the disease. Once the problem is discovered and corrected, the child can grow up normally.
Have more questions? Need more answers? Check our Full Thyroid FAQ
Medullary Thyroid Cancer Treatment
People diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer want to be involved in the entire decision-making with regard to treating their disease. They want to know more information about their disease and their treatment options. Being diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer makes it hard for an individual to come up with a decision regarding getting disease information and treatment options especially that it may cause shock and stress. After a doctor provides diagnosis, patients are then referred to oncologists. Oncologists are doctors specializing in treating cancer. Treatment normally starts a few weeks later after the diagnosis. A patient may also seek a second opinion regarding treatment options.
As for treating medullary thyroid cancer, the first treatment option is to remove the thyroid. Thyroidectomy is performed to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the thyroid gland. A thyroidectomy is a surgical operation that removes a part or all of the thyroid gland. A central neck dissection is also done as part of the process in removing the thyroid. In this operation, the surgeon will remove some of the lymph nodes in the neck since whenever the medullary thyroid cancer spreads; it normally attacks the lymph nodes first. The central neck dissection basically has two main goals, first is to prevent the medullary thyroid cancer from spreading to the lymph nodes and second, is to remove the cancer that has already spread to the lymph nodes and stops it from spreading even more.
Medullary Thyroid Cancer Prognosis
Most thyroid cancers are curable especially if it is detected and diagnosed in an early stage. Thyroid cancers, if treated accordingly have an extremely high cure rate. Medullary thyroid cancer is a lot less common compared to the other types of thyroid cancer. However, medullary thyroid cancer prognosis or chance of recovery is poor.
With medullary thyroid cancer, it tends to spread out to the lymph nodes in the body. It therefore requires a more aggressive approach in terms of treatment than other types of thyroid cancer. Medullary thyroid cancer requires the removal of the thyroid gland as well as the lymph nodes on the front and sides of the neck. . The chance of recovery may even get worse when the cancer has already spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the thyroid.
Thyroid FAQ & Links to Related Articles
|There are four parathyroid glands that are normally having the size of a single rice grain. In some normal cases, they can be as big as the size of a pea.|
|Also called underactive thyroid, hypothyroidism is a disorder that is characterized by abnormal level of thyroid hormones in the body, which is too low.|
|The thyroid is a butterfly (pear)-shaped gland, it consists of 2 symmetrical lobes joined by a central isthmus that normally covers the 2nd & 3rd tracheal rings.|
|Congenital hypothyroidism is a thyroid gland disorder that may lead to deafness or mental retardation if left undetected.|
|Hypothyroidism can cause depression. Most people don?t realize that this feeling is depression caused by the thyroid gland not functioning as it should.|
|Papillary thyroid cancer is one of the thyroid cancer types. This type of thyroid cancer arises from the follicles in the thyroid gland.|
|The thyroid gland is located immediately below the larynx on each side of and anterior to the trachea. It is one of the largest of the endocrine glands|
|These thyroid hormones are responsible in regulating the body?s metabolism, which is how much food will be broken down into useful energy for consumption.|
|When the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, one may suffer from hyperthyroidism.|
|The thyroid stimulating hormone is produced by the pituitary gland. The thyroid stimulating hormone promotes the growth of the thyroid gland.|
|Thyroid hormones are chemical substances produced by the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck.|
|Natural thyroid supplements are helpful as a remedy to thyroid disorders. Its natural ingredients assure one of its safeties in taking it.|
|The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland that is the primary responsible in regulating the body?s metabolism.|
|Thyroid surgery is used to treat people with thyroid problems such as thyroid cancer, thyroid nodules and hyperthyroidism.|
|Thyroid tests or thyroid function tests are done to check the thyroid function in one?s body. A doctor will be able to determine and diagnose the thyroid disorder.|
|Treatment for thyroid disorders should be done to prevent unwanted results caused by the severity of the condition. Consult a physician for more of these treatments.|
|Thyroidectomy is a surgical process wherein the whole or a part of the thyroid gland is removed. This surgical process is used to treat thyroid disorders.|
|Having an underactive thyroid is a minor problem but it seeks proper attention to avoid further health problems. Consult a physician about any thyroid problem.|
|Low thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism, is a condition where the thyroid gland is under active.|
|Following a healthy meal plan, exercise and proper medication goes hand in hand to treat hypothyroidism. Consult a physician for a more individualized plan.|
|Each thyroid cancer treatment depends on the type of thyroid cancer and the extent or stage of the thyroid cancer one is suffering from.|
|Parathyroid hormones are considered to be the most important endocrine regulator. It basically regulates the calcium and phosphorus concentration in the body.|
|Studies show that since 1925, the standard treatment for parathyroid disease is to surgically remove the parathyroid gland(s) which are overproducing parathyroid hormones.|
|Parathyroid adenoma is a small tumor of the parathyroid gland and is known to be the most common disorder of the gland.|
Medullary Thyroid Cancer
|Medullary thyroid cancer is one of the types of thyroid cancer. This type of thyroid cancer is more common in women than in men.|
|Most people don?t feel any symptoms. Others can just lose weight and just feel depressed for no reason at all.|
|Suppose you go in for a routine checkup and your doctor decides to test your thyroid function. You?ve experienced no thyroid disease symptoms|
|Hypothyroidism develops for over a long period of time. It?s normally from several months to even several years.|
|People who are suffering from hypothyroidism are advised to get plenty of exercise and have a balanced and healthy diet. The diet must be rich in protein and iodine.|
|Self medicating one?s thyroid disorder with hypothyroidism diet pills without proper information of the diet pill does not address the problem.|
|Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces too much thyroid hormones more than the body needs.|
|Hypothyroidism is one of the chronic diseases in the world. Hypothyroidism is also known as underactive thyroid; hypo means under or below normal.|
|Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a type of thyroid cancer that is rare and aggressive. It affects the thyroid gland and most especially its function.|
|Problems arise if the thyroid gland is overactive or underactive. There are three common thyroid disorders. These are hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and the thyroid nodules.|
Thyroid Hair Loss
|Hair loss may happen for so many reasons but it is commonly associated to thyroid problems such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.|
|Thyroid Function Tests are the different tests conducted to assess and determine the cause of an individual?s thyroid problems.|