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Medullary thyroid cancer – an uncommon disease that makes up about 1 to 2 percent of all thyroid cancer cases – is usually treated by surgically removing the thyroid. Patients whose cancer has spread beyond the thyroid or cannot be completely removed through surgery may receive additional treatments.

Surgery for medullary thyroid cancer 

A total thyroidectomy is performed for most patients with medullary thyroid cancer. During this procedure, the entire thyroid is removed through a small incision at the base of the neck. Some surrounding lymph nodes in the chest and neck may also be removed as a preventive measure or if the cancer has spread. Less commonly, patients who are diagnosed in an early stage may be candidates for a lobectomy – in which only a portion of the thyroid is removed.

Hormone replacement therapy is necessary for patients who have undergone total thyroidectomy surgery. Taking levothyroxine pills can help replace natural thyroid hormones and preserve metabolic function.

Other treatment approaches

Unlike more common forms of thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid cancer cannot be treated with radioactive iodine treatment. Instead, patients with aggressive invasive  cancer that has spread beyond the thyroid may benefit from external beam radiation therapy that uses high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells. Patients with metastatic (widely spread) disease can be treated with systemic therapy.

Our approach to medullary thyroid cancer treatment

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we recognize that no two patients are the same. That’s why the multispecialty team at our Thyroid Clinic takes a collaborative approach to medullary thyroid cancer treatment that considers the unique characteristics of each patient and his or her cancer. In one location, our patients benefit from the expertise of renowned endocrinologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists,  pathologists and head and neck surgeons who are highly experienced in performing complex thyroid operations, among other professionals who focus exclusively on thyroid malignancies. We also lead an ambitious research initiatives and clinical trials that are actively exploring breakthroughs in thyroid cancer treatment. 

Submit a new patient registration form online or call 1-888-663-3488 if you would like to consult a Moffitt oncologist about your medullary thyroid cancer treatment options. A referral is not required to visit Moffitt.

Medullary Thyroid Cancer