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Interpretive Guide


Clinical Use

Diagnose and monitor medullary thyroid carcinoma

Clinical Background

Calcitonin is a 32-amino acid polypeptide produced by parafollicular or C cells in the thyroid. Secretion of calcitonin is stimulated by calcium. Calcitonin decreases osteoclastic bone resorption, but the physiological role in man is uncertain.

Calcitonin measurement is indicated for the diagnosis and follow-up of patients with medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), the majority of whom produce the hormone. Settings in which the test is appropriate include 1) thyroid nodule in patients with symptoms potentially attributable to hypercalcitoninemia, 2) screening of individuals in families with known or suspected MTC or the multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome types IIa or IIb, and 3) follow-up of patients with known MTC. Screening family members with normal basal calcitonin levels should include additional calcitonin measurements after calcium stimulation.


Immunochemiluminometric assay (ICMA)

Analytical sensitivity: 2 pg/mL

Interpretative Information


Medullary carcinoma of the thyroid (1/3 have normal basal levels and require provocative test to


reveal abnormal levels)



Lung, breast, pancreatic cancer (some patients)









Renal failure



Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (gastrin oversecretion)



Pernicious anemia



Pregnancy (term)



Newborn infants





Thyroid agenesis

 Content reviewed 06/2015

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* The tests listed by specialist are a select group of tests offered. For a complete list of Quest Diagnostics tests, please refer to our Directory of Services.