What is Thymus Cancer – Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Thymus is an organ located under the breastbone in the upper chest. Its task prior to birth and during early years of childhood is to produce white blood cells and protect the body from infection.

Thymus cancer

is a rare ailment. People suffering from ailments like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or myasthenia gravis are at a higher risk of developing this ailment. It is known to spread to other organs of the body and has high risk of making a comeback after treatment. Its prognosis is poor. This article tries to gain further insight on this subject.

There are two types of cancer cells affecting this organ, namely, thymoma and thymic carcinoma. The cells of the former type look similar to the healthy cells of the organ and evade diagnosis. They grow slowly and mostly remain confined to the outer surface of the thymus.

Cells of thymic carcinoma are different from the healthy cells, grow rapidly and have the invasive ability of spreading the ailment to fresh locations of the body. It is difficult to treat the latter type than thymoma.

Symptoms of Thymus Cancer:

In some cases, these signs remain asymptomatic. It is the technical name for the signs of a cancer being latent. Some of the signs to watch out for are:

  • Persistent cough which does not go away
  • Pain in the chest
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the face
  • Swelling of the neck
  • Pain in the neck
  • Double vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Asthma
  • Diarrhea
  • Flushing

What is the Relationship of the Cancer in Thymus with Autoimmune Diseases?

The organ is part of the natural defense mechanism of the body. Autoimmune diseases are ailments where the cells of this system become a threat to the healthy cells for unknown reasons. Cancer can develop in such compromised immune system rapidly. Some of the diseases of autoimmunity closely related to this cancer are:

  • Autoimmune pure and red aplasia
  • Polymyositis
  • Thyroiditis
  • Sjogren syndrome
  • Hypogammaglobulinemia

Diagnosis of Cancer in the Thymus:

A regular x-ray scan of the chest might reveal the signs of this disease. Other diagnostic techniques available for finding these signs, apart from the routine physical examination are:

  • Positron emission tomography scan
  • Computer tomography scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging

Treatment of Thymus Cancer:

Surgery is the most common modality of remedy which involves surgical removal of the affected part. Apart from this remedy, hormone therapy and radiation therapy are also applied by the doctor based on certain parameters which ultimately decide the outcome of the applied treatment and the prognosis. These factors are:

  • Whether the disease has been diagnosed for the first time or it is recurring
  • Stage of the disease
  • Type of the rogue cells
  • General health of the patient
  • Whether there is a possibility of removing the tumor through surgery or not

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