Thymic Tumors

Tumors are abnormal growths of tissue that can occur anywhere in the body. While tumors are usually associated with cancer (malignant), some are non-cancerous (benign). Therefore it is extremely important for your doctor to identify if it is cancerous or not to determine the best way to treat your condition.

The thymus gland is a gland that shrinks after puberty, being replaced with fat instead. It plays an important role in developing the body’s immune system. Even when the thymus has shrunk, it still remains in the body and is susceptible to tumors.

Types of Thymic Tumors

Tumors of the thymus glands are uncommon, accounting for less than one percent of all cancers. There are several types:

  • Thymoma: About 90 percent of tumors that develop in the thymus are thymomas. These tumors begin in the cells that line the outside of the thymus and tend to grow slowly. It’s rare for them to spread outside of the thymus. However, there are situations in which thymomas are aggressive and spread to neighboring organs in the chest or the lining of the lung (the pleura).
  • Thymic Carcinoma: These can grow more quickly than thymomas and can sometimes spread outside the thymus. These tumors sometimes require combinations of different therapies, such as chemotherapy or radiation in addition to surgery.
  • Thymic Carcinoid: These are rare and slow-growing cancers. They more commonly arise in the digestive tract and lungs, but on rare occasions can also appear in the thymus gland. They occur more frequently in men than in women and are more likely than thymomas to spread or recur.

Causes of Thymic Tumors

There are no known causes of thymic tumors. However, other conditions, traits or habits may also play a role in raising your risk. These conditions are known as risk factors and include:

Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing this disease.

  • Older age
  • Family History/Genetics
  • Ethnicity: most common in Asian and Pacific Islanders

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • Excessive amounts of alcohol consumption over the years
  • Long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug abuse

Other conditions that contribute to Thymic tumors

  • Autoimmune disease: a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body (e.g. lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma).

Symptoms of Thymic Tumors

About half of all thymic tumors show no symptoms. Others can grow large enough that they put pressure on nearby organs, which can cause problems. Some symptoms of thymic tumors include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Chronic cough
  • Night sweats

Diagnosis of Thymic Tumors

Screenings are typically performed through a routine check-up even if no symptoms are present. Typically, based on your doctor’s assessment, you will have one or more of the following:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

  • X-rays
  • Computed tomography (CT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Tissue biopsy

Treatment of Thymic Tumors

There are many different approaches to treating thymic tumors. The right option for you depends on where the tumor formed and what caused it. In the early stages, doctors usually choose to monitor the tumor to see if it will cause any problems before recommending a treatment that could be unnecessary. Some treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes

  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor for routine check-ups and follow-up tests.

Medical and Surgical procedures

To contact one of New Jersey’s best lung and thoracic cancer specialists call
844-CANCERNJ or 844-226-2376.




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