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What is thymoma?

Thymoma is a form of cancer that impacts the thymus, which is an organ of the immune and lymphatic system that sits between the lungs. The purpose of the thymus is to act as a holding place for T-cells so that they can mature before they travel to various lymph nodes across the body. When tumors form on this organ, the normal process is interrupted. 

What are the symptoms of thymoma?

Symptoms vary depending on the stage and spread of the cancer. Possible effects include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Coughing
    • Patients may cough up blood
  • Superior vena cava syndrome
    • This causes headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, swelling of the visible veins, and swelling in the upper chest, neck, and face (this may also come with a bluish color to the skin)

In addition to these symptoms, thymoma can give rise to secondary conditions that bring their own host of symptoms, such as myasthenia gravis, hypogammaglobulinemia, red cell aplasia, and other autoimmune conditions. 

What causes thymoma?

Medical professionals are unsure of the cause of this cancer, but they have identified factors that heighten one’s chance of thymoma. Risk factors for developing thymoma include being in one’s 70s/older age and being of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. 

How is thymoma diagnosed?

In some cases, a diagnosis is accidental and occurs before a patient is symptomatic. During a CT scan or chest X-ray, a doctor may notice a tumor on the thymus. In other cases, a patient will go to their doctor because they have begun to experience symptoms. When this happens, a doctor will begin with a physical exam, alongside a review of the patient’s medical history and symptoms. Imaging tests and blood tests are useful and may be utilized by doctors, but the best way to diagnose thymoma is through a biopsy. 

What are the treatments for thymoma?

Treatment depends on a variety of factors, such as stage, spread, a patient’s health, and a patient’s preference. If the cancer has not spread, surgery to remove the tumor is the best option. Otherwise, treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of all three treatments. 

Where can I find out more about thymoma?


Thymoma Articles