We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 65 consecutive patients with medullary thyroid carcinoma, who had had their primary surgical treatment at the Mayo Clinic during the years 1946 through 1970. Of these patients, 58 had sporadic and 7 had familial medullary thyroid carcinoma. Thyroid nodules were the most common initial manifestation. Near-total thyroidectomy was the most frequent initial operation. Survival was affected by the following factors: male sex, familial inheritance, size of the tumor, stage of the tumor (American Joint Committee on Cancer), and completeness of initial resection of the tumor. The mean duration of follow-up was 23.5 years, and the maximal follow-up was 36 years. Among 52 patients without initial distant metastatic involvement and with complete resection of the tumor, 20-year survival free of distant metastatic lesions was 81%. Overall 10- and 20-year survival rates were 63% and 44%, respectively. Because of the substantial morbidity and mortality associated with medullary thyroid carcinoma, early diagnosis and thorough initial resection of the tumor are important.