What is MTC?
Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is a rare form of cancer of the thyroid gland in the neck. When there is no family history of the disease and MTC occurs as an isolated case, it is called sporadic MTC. In 25% (1 in 4) of all cases, MTC occurs as part of a rare inherited (genetic) disorder called Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2 (MEN2). For this reason, all MTC patients must be offered DNA screening (a genetic blood test) for MEN2. In most cases, patients may notice a lump in the neck which has not been present before. Some patients with MTC may suffer with diarrhoea caused by a larger-than-normal quantity of hormone (calcitonin) being produced by the tumour.
MTC usually develops over a number of years but can spread early on to nearby lymph nodes. If the thyroid and nearby lymph nodes are surgically removed while the cancer is still contained within the thyroid (total thyroidectomy and central lymph node dissection), a patient is usually cured. If, after surgery, calcitonin levels are still raised, this indicates that the cancer has spread (become metastatic) or has not been completely removed, and so further surgery and therapies are used to control it. As yet there is no definitive cure for metastatic MTC, as it rarely responds well to regular chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Nevertheless, it is usually slow growing and may often be managed effectively and without symptoms for many years.
For further more detailed information, please read the AMEND-produced MTC Patient Information Book (we recommend that you discuss the contents of this book with your specialist - it is not for use in self-diagnosis, and not all of the information it contains may be relevant to you)
Author: Jo Grey, AMEND CEO, with the help of the AMEND Medical Advisory Team