Expert care for this rare thoracic cancer.

Thymoma is a rare form of cancer that affects the thymus, a small organ under the breastbone. The thymus produces T-lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells that helps the body fight bacteria and viruses as part of the immune system. The thymus is most active in children and teens, and it shrinks during adulthood.

Thymoma accounts for less than 1 percent of all cancer diagnoses. Because the condition is so rare, not all providers have experience caring for people with thymoma. Our thymoma team is one of the few teams nationwide to perform minimally invasive surgery to remove the thymus (thymectomy). We also offer a Survivorship Workshop Series to support and educate you starting from the moment you receive a thymoma diagnosis.

Thymoma risk factors

Your doctor may discover your thymoma after diagnosing you with certain autoimmune disorders, including:

  • Hypogammaglobulinemia: A condition that involves a lack of B-lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) and antibodies in the blood
  • Myasthenia gravis: A disease that causes muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Red-cell aplasia: A type of anemia that involves the bone marrow not making enough red blood cells

Thymoma symptoms

If you have thymoma, you may not notice any unusual symptoms. If you do notice symptoms, they may include:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Increased body or facial hair
  • Persistent cough
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain

Our thymoma diagnosis options

If your doctor suspects that you have thymoma, you’ll need one or more imaging tests in order to rule in or rule out that diagnosis. These tests let your doctor see whether you have thymoma and, if so, how advanced it may be. Learn more about our thymoma diagnostic process.

Thymoma treatment

Thymectomy is our first line of defense against thymoma. If your thymoma is small enough, you may be a good candidate for a minimally invasive robot-assisted thymectomy. We also use traditional open surgery for patients with tumors that are too large or complex to treat with minimally invasive techniques.

If surgery isn’t an option for you, we use radiation therapy to destroy tumors. Radiation therapy is sometimes an option to relieve symptoms of thymoma, especially if the tumor has spread. Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy as well as part of your treatment plan.

You may be a good candidate for a clinical trial to test new treatments for thymoma. Talk to your doctor about whether taking part in a clinical trial is right for you.

Get Information on Clinical Trials
If you have thymoma, you may qualify for one of our clinical trials.
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