Medullary Thyroid Cancer
Around a quarter of cases of medullary thyroid cancer are inherited and there is a 50% chance of passing on the disease to children. Inherited MTC is caused by changes in the genes. When these changes are present, the cancer will develop at some time point. Screening of the genes for these changes can be done early in life, even in babies. In case the changed gene is present, appropriate treatment plan can be made including removal of the thyroid.
Medullary thyroid cancer is usually treated at a specialist cancer centre where the surgeons are experienced in head and neck surgery.
It is worth the effort of travelling to a specialist thyroid surgery centre if this choice is available to you. The risks associated with thyroid surgery are highly dependent on the experience and skill of the surgeon. The number of thyroid operations performed each year in a department or hospital is a good indicator of its expertise in thyroid surgery.
Timely coordination between your doctors is important to ensure optimal post-surgical follow-up.
Medullary thyroid cancer generally has a good outcome, particularly if the cancer is confined to the thyroid gland. Following surgery, most patients can return to leading a "normal life" although life-long monitoring will be required. However, since the thyroid, and probably also the parathyroid glands, have been removed, the body can no longer produce thyroid hormones and the calcium metabolism may become affected. Patients thus need to take thyroid hormone replacement in tablet form, as well as calcium and vitamin D.