Medullary thyroid cancer differential diagnosis

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Medullary thyroid cancer Microchapters


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Historical Perspective




Differentiating Medullary thyroid cancer from other Diseases

Epidemiology and Demographics

Risk Factors


Natural History, Complications and Prognosis



History and Symptoms

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Laboratory Findings


Echocardiography or Ultrasound

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Case #1

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Sahar Memar Montazerin, M.D.[2] Ammu Susheela, M.D. [3]


Medullary thyroid cancer must be differentiated from anaplastic thyroid carcinoma, papillary thyroid carcinoma, paraganglioma, carcinoid tumor, and Hurthle cell carcinoma.

Differentiating Medullary thyroid cancer from other Diseases

  • Medullary thyroid cancer must be differentiated from the following:
Disease Name Age of Onset Gender Preponderance Signs/Symptoms Imaging Feature(s) Macroscopic Feature(s) Microscopic Feature(s) Laboratory Findings(s) Other Feature(s) Microscopic Appearance
Medullary Thyroid Cancer[1][2][3][4]
  • Incidence increases with age
  • More common in the 3rd to 4th decades of life
  • Both genders are affected equally
  • Single non-encapsulated mass
  • Gray-tan color
Source:Wikimedia common
Papillary Thyroid Cancer[5][6][4]
  • More common in the middle aged (30 - 50 years of age)
  • More commonly affects women
Source:Wikimedia commons
Follicular Thyroid Cancer[6][4][7]
  • More commonly affects women
Source:Wikimedia common
Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer[8][9][10]
  • More common among older individuals
  • Mean age at diagnosis is 65 years
  • More commonly affects women
    • Irregular margin
  • Imaging features are not characteristic of this cancer
Source:Wikimedia common
Follicular Adenoma[11]
  • More commonly affects individuals older than 50 years of age
  • More commonly affects women
  • Solitary nodule which may show echogenicity or not
  • Solitary, spherical, and encapsulated lesion
  • Well demarcated from the surrounding parenchyma
  • Functional adenoma:
    • Elevated T3, T4
    • Decreased TSH
  • May be considered functional or hot
  • May be considered non-functional or cold
Source:Wikimedia common
Multinodular Goiter[12]
  • Commonly affects individuals older than 60 years of age
  • More commonly affects women
Source:pathology outline, case courtesy of Dr. Swati Satturwar
Thyroid Lymphoma[13]


  • More common among women
Source:pathology outline, case courtesy of Dr. Mark R. Wick


  1. Busnardo B, Girelli ME, Simioni N, Nacamulli D, Busetto E (January 1984). "Nonparallel patterns of calcitonin and carcinoembryonic antigen levels in the follow-up of medullary thyroid carcinoma". Cancer. 53 (2): 278–85. doi:10.1002/1097-0142(19840115)53:2<278::aid-cncr2820530216>;2-z. PMID 6690009.
  2. Kebebew E, Ituarte PH, Siperstein AE, Duh QY, Clark OH (March 2000). "Medullary thyroid carcinoma: clinical characteristics, treatment, prognostic factors, and a comparison of staging systems". Cancer. 88 (5): 1139–48. doi:10.1002/(sici)1097-0142(20000301)88:5<1139::aid-cncr26>;2-z. PMID 10699905.
  3. Hofstra, Robert M. W.; Landsvater, Rudy M.; Ceccherini, Isabella; Stulp, Rein P.; Stelwagen, Tineke; Luo, Yin; Pasini, Barbara; Hoppener, Jo W. M.; van Amstel, Hans Kristian Ploos; Romeo, Giovanni; Lips, Cornells J. M.; Buys, Charles H. C. M. (1994). "A mutation in the RET proto-oncogene associated with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B and sporadic medullary thyroid carcinoma". Nature. 367 (6461): 375–376. doi:10.1038/367375a0. ISSN 0028-0836.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Sipos JA (December 2009). "Advances in ultrasound for the diagnosis and management of thyroid cancer". Thyroid. 19 (12): 1363–72. doi:10.1089/thy.2009.1608. PMID 20001718.
  5. Fagin, James A.; Mitsiades, Nicholas (2008). "Molecular pathology of thyroid cancer: diagnostic and clinical implications". Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 22 (6): 955–969. doi:10.1016/j.beem.2008.09.017. ISSN 1521-690X.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Schlumberger, Martin Jean (1998). "Papillary and Follicular Thyroid Carcinoma". New England Journal of Medicine. 338 (5): 297–306. doi:10.1056/NEJM199801293380506. ISSN 0028-4793.
  7. Pettersson B, Adami HO, Wilander E, Coleman MP (April 1991). "Trends in thyroid cancer incidence in Sweden, 1958-1981, by histopathologic type". Int. J. Cancer. 48 (1): 28–33. doi:10.1002/ijc.2910480106. PMID 2019455.
  8. Nagaiah G, Hossain A, Mooney CJ, Parmentier J, Remick SC (2011). "Anaplastic thyroid cancer: a review of epidemiology, pathogenesis, and treatment". J Oncol. 2011: 542358. doi:10.1155/2011/542358. PMC 3136148. PMID 21772843.
  9. Chang TC, Liaw KY, Kuo SH, Chang CC, Chen FW (June 1989). "Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma: review of 24 cases, with emphasis on cytodiagnosis and leukocytosis". Taiwan Yi Xue Hui Za Zhi. 88 (6): 551–6. PMID 2794956.
  10. Venkatesh YS, Ordonez NG, Schultz PN, Hickey RC, Goepfert H, Samaan NA (July 1990). "Anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid. A clinicopathologic study of 121 cases". Cancer. 66 (2): 321–30. doi:10.1002/1097-0142(19900715)66:2<321::aid-cncr2820660221>;2-a. PMID 1695118.
  11. Mathur, Aarti; Olson, Matthew T.; Zeiger, Martha A. (2014). "Follicular Lesions of the Thyroid". Surgical Clinics of North America. 94 (3): 499–513. doi:10.1016/j.suc.2014.02.005. ISSN 0039-6109.
  12. Bronshteĭn ME, Makarov AD, Artemova AM, Bazarova EN, Kozlov GI (1994). "[Morphology of the thyroid tissue in multinodular euthyroid goiter]". Probl Endokrinol (Mosk) (in Russian). 40 (2): 36–9. PMID 8197088.
  13. Pedersen RK, Pedersen NT (January 1996). "Primary non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of the thyroid gland: a population based study". Histopathology. 28 (1): 25–32. PMID 8838117.
  14. Hyjek E, Isaacson PG (November 1988). "Primary B cell lymphoma of the thyroid and its relationship to Hashimoto's thyroiditis". Hum. Pathol. 19 (11): 1315–26. doi:10.1016/s0046-8177(88)80287-9. PMID 3141260.
  15. Tupchong L, Hughes F, Harmer CL (October 1986). "Primary lymphoma of the thyroid: clinical features, prognostic factors, and results of treatment". Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 12 (10): 1813–21. doi:10.1016/0360-3016(86)90324-x. PMID 3759532.
  16. Ota H, Ito Y, Matsuzuka F, Kuma S, Fukata S, Morita S, Kobayashi K, Nakamura Y, Kakudo K, Amino N, Miyauchi A (October 2006). "Usefulness of ultrasonography for diagnosis of malignant lymphoma of the thyroid". Thyroid. 16 (10): 983–7. doi:10.1089/thy.2006.16.983. PMID 17042683.