Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

  • Medullary thyroid carcinoma is also called MTC. It is a kind of tumor (abnormal growth) found in your thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ in the front area of your neck. The abnormal growth comes from a part of the thyroid gland called parafollicular cells, or C-cells. These cells make the hormone (special body chemical) calcitonin that controls the amount of calcium in your blood. When the abnormal cells grow and split, they make too much tissue called a tumor. The cause of MTC may be inherited (passed on by a parent), or the cause may be unknown. Certain thyroid conditions and having radiation treatment earlier in life may increase your risk of having MTC.

  • Neck lumps, shortness of breath, bone pain, or trouble swallowing are common signs and symptoms of MTC. You may also have diarrhea (loose bowel movements), a hoarse (rough) voice, or flushed (red) skin. Blood and urine tests, biopsy, genetic screening, and imaging tests may be done to check for MTC. Imaging tests include computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) scan, thyroid scan, and ultrasound. You may be treated with surgery, medicines, or radiation therapy. The chances of curing MTC are better when it is found and treated early.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Take your medicine as directed.

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Chemotherapy:

    • This medicine, often called chemo, is used to treat cancer. It works by killing tumor cells. Chemotherapy may also be used to shrink lymph nodes that have cancer in them. Once the tumor is smaller, you may need surgery to cut out the rest of the cancer.

    • Many different chemotherapy medicines are used to treat cancer. You may need blood tests often. These blood tests show how your body is doing and how much chemotherapy is needed. Chemotherapy can have many side effects. Caregivers will watch you closely and will work with you to decrease side effects. Chemotherapy can cure some cancers. Even if the chemotherapy does not cure your cancer, it may help you feel better or live longer.

Follow-up visit information:

You will need to have blood tests after surgery. These may be done to measure the amount of hormones and other chemicals in your blood. Blood tests may help your caregiver check if your tumor was completely removed, or if it has returned. Ask your caregiver when to visit and how often you need your blood tested. Keep all appointments. Write down any questions you may have. This way you will remember to ask these questions during your next visit.

Radiation therapy:

This may include external beam radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses x-rays or gamma rays to control bleeding and shrink the tumor. It keeps cancer cells from dividing into new cells, which is one way cancer spreads. Lymph nodes with cancer are also treated with radiation. It may be given after surgery to kill the cancer cells that were not removed. This treatment may be given along with chemotherapy. Ask your caregiver for more information about external beam radiation therapy.

CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:

  • You have nausea (upset stomach) or vomiting (throwing up).

  • You have trouble swallowing.

  • You notice new lumps on your neck.

  • Your voice becomes hoarse.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, treatment, or care.

SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:

  • You suddenly have trouble breathing.

  • Your symptoms get worse or do not go away even after taking medicine.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma (Aftercare Instructions)

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