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Calcitonin – a regulator of calcium metabolism

Calcitonin is a polypeptide hormone which is made up of 32 amino acids and is known to be naturally produced and secreted from the thyroid gland.

The prominent controlling factor for the production and secretion of calcitonin is the levels of ionized calcium present in the blood. Increases levels of calcium in the blood causes calcitonin to be produced and secreted from the thyroid gland, this process continues until the concentration of calcium in the blood falls below the normal level.

A second major function of calcitonin is in the reduction of bone breakdown. This also leads to reducing the reabsorption of bone tissue. In this case the bone destruction rate is slowed down which leads to the levels of calcium been secreted into the blood being decreased.

Calcitonin Test:

Carrying out the calcitonin test is usually advised to patients who suffer from medullary thyroid cancer symptoms for example; swelling or lump found in the neck.

Calcitonin is also found to be a vital aid in the management and diagnosis of various number of osteoporosis related illness.

It can used to screen people who are known to have a family history of medullary thyroid cancer. This helps to access the possible risks of developing this cancer in the future and allows additional preventative steps to be taken. Since the survival chances are higher the earlier this cancer is diagnosed.

Key facts about the test:
- Samples of blood are needed to carry out the test.
- Blood is drawn using a needle from the vein in the arm.
- Possible risks include: bruising, infection, bleeding, soreness and maybe feeling dizzy.
- In order to prepare for the test patients will need to fast for at least 12 hours before carry out the test.

Interpretation of the test results:
Calcitonin is determined in units of picograms per milliliter (pg/mL).

Normal results are:
[1]. For females:  Less than 14pg/mL.
[2]. For males: Less than 19pg/mL.

There could be many factors which could affect the test results obtained from an individual laboratory. Different laboratories may be using different protocols and even a different test. Also, the sensitivities of the tests used may be different, depending on which manufacturer has developed the test. A second testis usually needed to verify the first results.

In many cases it has been found that you may not have any problem even if the results obtained are different from the normal expected levels. Elevated levels of calcitonin have been found in pregnant women and in individuals that are taking certain prescribed drugs such as; epinephrine, oral contraceptives, calcium and glucagons.

Elevated calcitonin levels may also indicate that your treated cancer may have returned. Whereas, if the levels have decreased then this could mean that your treated cancer could be shrinking.

Having other cancers such as lung, pancreas and breast are also known to cause calcitonin levels to increase.

Calcitonin tests are also now available for rat and salmon samples.

Calcitonin Injection:

A synthetic man made calcitonin version of the naturally produced hormone by the thyroid gland is now available.

This can be injected under the skin or into the muscles of patient in order to help treat postmenopausal osteoporosis, hypercalcemia (high calcium levels in the blood) and Paget's disease (bone).
There are also many side effects from Calcitonin injection which can include:

[1]. Serious:
- Breathing difficulty.
- Swelling of your face, lips, throat, tongue or tongue.
- Fainting or feeling light-headed.
- Muscle stiffness.

[2]. Less Serious:
- Itching or skin rash.
- Vomiting.
- Increased urination.
- Swelling or irritation of the skin and feet.
- Appetite loss.
- Stomach pains.
- Eye pain.

If one stops taking calcitonin then the benefits of it will also go away. This can be a seen as a major negative drawback, i.e. patients need to commit to a life time of taking calcitoinin.

Also, there is a higher possibility of having babies that have birth defects for females who are on this medication during their pregnancy.

Has daily calcitonin injections need to be taken it is important to firstly, to learn the correct procedure for giving the shot and secondly, to understand that if the injection is repeatedly giving in the same location then this could lead to damage being caused to the muscle tissue.

It must be understood that there are chances of a relapse happening, in cases where your bodies becomes immune to synthetic calcitonin by developing antibodies against it.

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