Thymoma and thymic carcinoma are thymus cancer. They form on the outside surface of the thymus. The thymus, a small organ that lies in the upper chest under the breastbone, is part of the lymphatic system. It makes white blood cells, called lymphocytes. These cells protect the body against infection.
The tumor cells in a thymoma look similar to the normal cells of the thymus. They grow slowly and rarely spread beyond the thymus.
On the other hand, the tumor cells in a thymic carcinoma look very different from normal thymus cells. They grow and spread quickly. Thymic carcinoma is more difficult to treat than thymoma.
No matter what type of thymus cancer you're facing, you'll find experts at Virginia's first NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. This title puts us among the nation's top cancer centers.
Thymus Cancer Treatment at UVA Health
You'll have a team of experts to come up with the best approach to treatment. You may need:
- Radiation therapy
- Hormone therapy
Learn more about our high level of expertise in cancer care.
Autoimmunity & Thymus Cancer
People with thymus cancer often have autoimmune diseases as well. These diseases cause the immune system to attack healthy tissue and organs. They include:
- Myasthenia gravis
- Acquired pure red cell aplasia
- Lupus erythematosus
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjögren syndrome
Sometimes thymoma and thymic carcinoma don't cause symptoms. Sometimes they'll cause:
- A cough that doesn't go away
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
We often find these cancers during a routine chest X-ray. We can also diagnose them with:
- Physical exam and history
- Chest X-ray
- CT scan (CAT scan)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- PET scan (positron emission tomography scan)