An Introduction to Managing Medullary Thyroid Cancer
1 Department of Internal Medicine, Isala Klinieken Zwolle, the Netherlands
2 Department of Endocrinology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, the Netherlands
3 Department of Genetics, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, the Netherlands
4 Department of Surgical Oncology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, the Netherlands
Hereditary Cancer in Clinical Practice 2006, 4:115-125 doi:10.1186/1897-4287-4-3-115Published: 15 July 2006
MTC is a rare neuroendocrine thyroid tumour accounting for 3% to 10% of all thyroid malignancies. It can occur in a sporadic and a hereditary clinical setting. Hereditary MTC may either occur alone (familial MTC, FMTC) or as part of multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) type 2A, or MEN 2B. These disorders are due to germline mutations in the RET (REarranged during Transfection) gene. In carriers of MEN 2B-associated RET mutations, prophylactic thyroidectomy is indicated before the first year of life. In the case of MEN 2A-associated germline RET mutations with a high-risk profile, total thyroidectomy is warranted before the age of 2 years and certainly before the age of 4 years. At that age the risk of invasive MTC and metastases is acceptably low. Depending on the type of RET mutation, thyroidectomy can take place at an older age in patients with a lower risk profile. In case of elevated basal or stimulated serum calcitonin, preventive surgery including total thyroidectomy and central compartment dissection should be performed regardless of age. When MTC presents as a palpable tumour, total thyroidectomy should be combined with extensive lymph node dissection of levels II-V on both sides and level VI to prevent locoregional recurrences.