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What is it?

Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is, as the name suggests, a neuroendocrine tumour of the thyroid gland. The thyroid is a small gland that is found at the front of your neck, just below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid gland produces the hormones thyroxine and calcitonin. Thyroxine, while essential to the body, does not play a part in medullary thyroid cancer. Calcitonin is produced by C-cells in the thyroid gland and plays a part in the control of the level of calcium in blood together with other hormones PTH and 1,25 OH vitamin D. It is from these C-cells that MTC arises and calcitonin may be measured to aid diagnosis of the cancer or as a tumour marker to check a person’s response to treatment along with another tumour marker CEA.

Thyroid cancers account for about 1.5 per cent of all cancer cases and of this 1.5 per cent, about 5 per cent of them are of the medullary sub-type. The majority of cases of MTC arise sporadically. However, 20-25 per cent are inherited and due to the RET oncogene and in some cases it may be due to a syndrome called multiple endocrine neoplasia or MEN

Last Review Date: October 13, 2016