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What is it?

The thyroid is a small gland found at the front of your enck, just below the Adam's apple. Thyroid cancer is the unregulated growth of thyroid cells. There are four main types of thyroid cancer; Papillary thyroid cancer, Follicular thyroid cancer, Medullary thyroid cancer and Anaplastic thyroid cancer. The most common is papillary thyroid cancer, which usually grows in one lobe of the thyroid gland (about 70-80% of all cases). Follicular thyroid cancer accounts for about 20% of thyroid cancers. Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is less common. This tumour originates from parafollicular C cells which produce calcitonin in the thyroid gland.
MTC is, as the name suggests, a neuroendocrine tumour of the thyroid gland.
Even though thyroid cancer is more common in women than men female, this preponderance is less marked in MTC.

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. MTC can develop spontaneously (sporadically) or be inherited. The majority of cases of MTC arise sporadically (Up to 75%). Inherited medullary thyroid cancer (23% of cases) is caused by a mutation in the RET gene and is often associated with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN), which is also caused by mutations in the RET gene. 


Last Review Date: September 7, 2019