Calcitonin

The Calcitonin test contains 1 test with 1 biomarker.

Brief Description: The calcitonin test is a blood test that measures the amount of calcitonin in the blood. Calcitonin is a hormone produced by the C-cells (or parafollicular cells) of the thyroid gland. Its primary function is to regulate calcium levels in the body, especially by inhibiting the release of calcium from bones.

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Serum

Test Preparation: Overnight fasting is preferred.

When and Why a Calcitonin Test May Be Ordered

A physician may order a calcitonin test for several reasons:

  • Evaluation of Thyroid Nodules: If a patient has a thyroid nodule, measuring calcitonin can help determine if the nodule might be a medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), a type of thyroid cancer.

  • Diagnosis of Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma (MTC): Elevated calcitonin levels are a marker for MTC.

  • Monitoring Treatment: In patients who have been diagnosed with MTC and have undergone treatment, calcitonin levels can be monitored to see if the treatment is working or if the cancer has recurred.

  • Screening: In families known to have a genetic mutation that increases the risk of MTC, calcitonin testing can be done as a screening tool.

What the Calcitonin Test Checks For

The calcitonin test specifically measures the amount of calcitonin in the blood. Elevated levels can indicate:

  • Presence of MTC: Medullary thyroid carcinoma is the primary condition associated with markedly elevated calcitonin levels.

  • Other Tumors: Some other tumors, like lung or pancreatic tumors, can also produce calcitonin, though it's less common.

Other Lab Tests Ordered Alongside the Calcitonin Test

When a Calcitonin test is ordered, it's often part of a broader evaluation of thyroid function and calcium metabolism. Here are some tests commonly ordered alongside it:

  1. Thyroid Function Tests:

    • Purpose: To assess overall thyroid gland function.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To evaluate thyroid hormone levels, which can be affected by thyroid disorders, including cancer.
  2. Serum Calcium:

    • Purpose: To measure the level of calcium in the blood.
    • Why Is It Ordered: Since calcitonin helps regulate calcium levels, abnormal calcitonin levels can be associated with calcium imbalances.
  3. Parathyroid Hormone (PTH):

    • Purpose: To measure the level of PTH, which regulates calcium and phosphate levels in conjunction with calcitonin.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To assess parathyroid function and further investigate calcium metabolism disorders.
  4. Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA):

    • Purpose: To measure CEA, a tumor marker that can be elevated in medullary thyroid cancer and other types of cancer.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To aid in the diagnosis and monitoring of medullary thyroid cancer, as CEA levels can correlate with disease activity.
  5. Phosphate Levels:

    • Purpose: To measure the level of phosphate in the blood.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To evaluate phosphate metabolism, which can be affected by thyroid and parathyroid disorders.

These tests, when ordered alongside a Calcitonin test, provide a comprehensive evaluation of thyroid health, calcium metabolism, and the potential for medullary thyroid cancer. They are crucial for accurately diagnosing thyroid conditions, assessing the risk of cancer, and guiding appropriate treatment and management. The specific combination of tests will depend on the individual’s symptoms, clinical presentation, family history, and the suspected diagnosis.

Conditions or Diseases that Require a Calcitonin Test

  • Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma (MTC): A type of thyroid cancer that originates from the C-cells of the thyroid.

  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2 (MEN 2): A genetic syndrome that includes MTC as one of its manifestations.

Usage of Calcitonin Test Results by Health Care Providers

  • Diagnostic Tool: Elevated calcitonin levels can provide a diagnosis of MTC or point towards another condition causing elevated calcitonin.

  • Treatment Monitoring: If levels decrease after treatment, it indicates that the treatment was effective. If levels do not decrease or if they rise again later, it might suggest the treatment was not effective or that the cancer has recurred.

  • Risk Stratification: Extremely high levels of calcitonin might suggest a more aggressive disease, guiding the urgency and aggressiveness of interventions.

In summary, the calcitonin test is a critical tool in the diagnosis and management of medullary thyroid carcinoma and provides essential insights into conditions affecting the C-cells of the thyroid. It guides physicians in their treatment approach and offers prognostic information.

Most Common Questions About the Calcitonin test:

Purpose and Indications of the Calcitonin Test

Why is the Calcitonin test performed?

The Calcitonin test primarily measures the amount of the hormone calcitonin in the blood. It is often used to diagnose and monitor the treatment of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) and to screen for MTC in family members of patients with the inherited form of the disease.

How can the Calcitonin test help in diagnosing thyroid tumors?

Elevated levels of calcitonin can indicate the presence of a medullary thyroid tumor. While not all these tumors are cancerous, a significant elevation of calcitonin levels is often seen in patients with MTC. Therefore, the test can serve as an important diagnostic and monitoring tool for this condition.

Interpreting the Results

What do elevated levels of calcitonin indicate?

Elevated levels of calcitonin in the blood can indicate the presence of MTC. However, other conditions, such as hyperparathyroidism, lung tumors, or other neuroendocrine tumors, can also result in increased calcitonin levels.

What does a normal result on the Calcitonin test mean?

A normal result means that calcitonin levels are within the typical reference range, which can vary by laboratory. It generally indicates the absence of medullary thyroid cancer or suggests that the cancer is not producing significant amounts of calcitonin. However, a normal result does not rule out the possibility of other thyroid conditions or diseases.

Implications and Management

How is the Calcitonin test used in monitoring treatment for medullary thyroid cancer?

After treatment for MTC, the Calcitonin test can be used to monitor the effectiveness of the therapy. A decreasing trend in calcitonin levels suggests that the treatment is working, while persistently high or rising levels might indicate the presence of residual or recurrent cancer.

Can the Calcitonin test be used as a standalone diagnostic tool for MTC?

While the Calcitonin test is valuable, it should not be used in isolation. It's best utilized in conjunction with clinical evaluations, imaging studies, and other laboratory tests for a comprehensive diagnosis.

Test Mechanisms and Specifics

Are there other factors that can influence calcitonin levels in the blood?

Yes, certain factors can influence calcitonin levels. These include other diseases, such as kidney disease, and certain medications. It's essential to inform the healthcare provider of any medications or supplements being taken to ensure accurate interpretation of the test results.

Why might someone get a Calcitonin test if they don't have symptoms of MTC?

If someone has a family history of MTC, especially if it's the inherited form called familial medullary thyroid cancer (FMTC), they might undergo a Calcitonin test as a screening measure even if they don't exhibit symptoms. Early detection can be crucial for effective treatment and management.

Additional Information

Are there specific foods or drinks that can affect the Calcitonin test results?

There is no widespread consensus on foods directly affecting calcitonin levels. However, patients should always follow their doctor's instructions before any medical test. If fasting or any other preparation is required, the healthcare provider will inform the patient beforehand.

In what scenarios might a healthcare provider order a repeat Calcitonin test?

A healthcare provider might order a repeat Calcitonin test if the initial results are unclear, inconclusive, or if they want to monitor the levels of calcitonin over a period to detect a trend, especially after treatment for MTC.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

The following is a list of what is included in the item above. Click the test(s) below to view what biomarkers are measured along with an explanation of what the biomarker is measuring.

Also known as: Human Calcitonin, Thyrocalcitonin

Calcitonin

*Process times are an estimate and are not guaranteed. The lab may need additional time due to weather, holidays, confirmation/repeat testing, or equipment maintenance.

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