Advances and controversies in the diagnosis and management of medullary thyroid carcinoma

Am J Med. 1997 Jul;103(1):60-9. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(97)00024-7.


Recent advances in the diagnosis and treatment of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) have been significant, but some issues remain controversial. MTC may occur either as a hereditary or a nonhereditary entity. Hereditary MTC can occur either alone--familial MTC (FMTC)--or as the thyroid manifestation of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2) syndromes (MEN 2A and MEN 2B). These hereditary disorders are due to germline mutations in the RET proto-oncogene. Early diagnosis and treatment considerably improve the prognosis in patients with MTC. Genetic testing can identify almost all affected individuals with hereditary disease and permits early thyroidectomy in gene carriers. Plasma CT is an excellent marker for postoperative follow-up. Imaging studies help delineate recurrent or metastatic lesions. Treatment of recurrent or metastatic disease is primarily surgical, including either palliative or microdissective surgery. Radiation therapy is reserved for skeletal metastasis or nonresectable metastatic MTC. Efficacy of current chemotherapy programs is not well established. Overall, the 10-year survival rates are approximately 65%.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Medullary* / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Medullary* / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Medullary* / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Medullary* / therapy
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2a / diagnosis
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2a / genetics
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2a / pathology
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2a / therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / therapy