What is thymus cancer?
Thymus cancer is very rare. The thymus is a small organ located behind the breastbone in front of the chest. The thymus is the part of the chest called the mediastinum, the middle part of the chest that contains the heart, aorta, esophagus, part of the trachea (windpipe), and numerous lymph nodes. The thymus is in front of and above the heart.
The thymus gland is an organ in your chest, just below your breast bone. It is a part of the lymphatic system of your body’s immune system. There are two main types of thymus cancer – thymoma and thymic carcinoma – and both are very rare.
Thymic carcinoma is more aggressive and more difficult to treat than thymol. Thymic carcinoma is also known as type C thymoma. People with thymoma may also have an autoimmune disease, such as mastinia gravis, pure red cell aplasia, or rheumatoid arthritis.
Cells can become cancerous almost anywhere in the body and spread to other parts of the body. To learn more about how cancers start and spread, what is cancer?. The thymus is divided into 2 parts, called lobes. It has an irregular shape. On its surface are a large number of small bumps called lobes. The thymus has 3 main layers:
- The thin coating on the outside of the thymus capsule.
- During puberty, the maximum weight of the thymus reaches 1 ounce. As it is replaced with fatty tissue, it decreases in size during puberty.
- During fetal development and infancy, the thymus is involved in the production and maturation of T lymphocytes (also known as T cells), a type of white blood cell. T lymphocytes develop in the thymus and then travel throughout the body to the lymph nodes (bean-sized groups of immune system cells). There they help the immune system to protect the body from viruses, fungi, and other types of infections.
The thymus is made up of different types of cells. Each type develops into different types of cancer:
- Thymomas and thymic carcinomas, which predominate in the rest of the article, develop from these cells.
- The rest of the thymus is rich in lymphocytes. Either in the thymus or elsewhere in the body, these cells of the immune system develop into cancers called Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- These cells can cause cancers called carcinoid tumors. This article does not discuss carcinoid tumors of the thymus. Much of the information on Ung lung carcinoid tumors and gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors also applies to carcinoids of the thymus.
Causes of thymus cancer
The thymus is an organ in your chest, just below the breastbone. It is part of the lymphatic system of your body’s immune system. The thymus gland makes white blood cells called lymphocytes, which help your body fight infection.
There are two main types of thymus cancer, thymoma, and thymic carcinoma, both of which are very rare. Thymus cancer is more aggressive and more difficult to treat than thymic carcinoma. Thymic carcinoma is also known as type C thymoma.
Symptoms and signs of thymus cancer
The thymus is located in the centre of the chest, near the airways, and near some blood vessels. Tumors in the thymus can press on nearby structures and cause symptoms such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Cough (brings bloody sputum)
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Lack of appetite
The thymus is located near the superior vena cava, the main blood vessel that carries blood from the head and upper body to the heart. Tumors pressed against this vessel can cause symptoms of superior vena cava syndrome, including:
- Swelling of the face, neck, and upper chest, sometimes blue
- Inflammation of the veins found in this part of the body.
- You feel dizzy or lightheaded.
- Paraneoplastic syndromes
These are conditions that are related to cancer but are not caused directly by the tumor mass. For example, people with thymoma can develop autoimmune diseases in which the immune system begins to attack the body. Part of the normal function of the thymus is to help control the immune system, which can help explain why this happens.
- Mastenia gravis: 30% to 65% of people with thymoma also have masthenia gravis (MG). It is by far the most common autoimmune disease associated with thymomas. In this disease, the immune system forms antibodies that block the chemical signals that tell the muscles to move. It can cause severe muscle weakness. Easy for those with angi tires. They may notice problems like climbing stairs or walking long distances.
Although patients have reduced muscle strength throughout the body, symptoms caused by muscle weakness in the eyes, neck, and chest can be quite embarrassing. Eye muscle weakness can cause blurred or double vision and drooping of the eyelids, while neck muscle weakness can lead to swallowing problems. The weakness of the chest and diaphragm muscles can cause shortness of breath and shortness of breath.
Most people with thymoma have MG, but most people with MG do not have thymoma. Most people with MG have other noncancerous thymus abnormalities. Mastenia gravis can be treated by removing the thymus (whether there is a thymoma or not) or with medications that strengthen chemical signals to the muscle or weaken the immune attack on the muscle.
- Red blood cell aplasia: Red blood cell aplasia, in which the body’s ability to make new red blood cells is severely reduced and occurs in up to 5% of patients with thymoma. Decreased production of red blood cells causes anemia (low red blood cell count). Symptoms of anemia include weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Removal of the thymus is a common treatment.
- Hypogammaglobulinemia: Hypogammaglobulinemia is a disorder in which the body produces small amounts of infection-fighting antibodies (also known as gamma globulins). It can infect a person. Hypogammaglobulinemia develops in 5% to 10% of patients with thymoma. Approximately 10% of patients with hypogammaglobulinemia have thymoma. Removing the thymus does not help correct the disease.
Other autoimmune diseases: Many other autoimmune diseases are also associated with thymoma or hypogammaglobulinemia or thymus cancer. Some examples:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Ulcerative colitis
- Sjogren’s syndrome (Sjagren)
Most people with these autoimmune diseases do not have thymoma.
Any risk factor that affects the possibility of contracting a disease such as cancer. Different types of cancer have different risk factors. For example, exposure to strong sunlight can increase the risk of skin cancer. Smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer and more.
But risk factors don’t tell us everything. Having a known risk factor or multiple risk factors does not mean that you will get the thymus cancer. And most people who get the disease may not have known risk factors.
Specific hereditary, environmental, or lifestyle risk factors are not strongly associated with thymoma or thymic carcinoma. Some studies have suggested radiation exposure to the upper chest, but this has not been confirmed. Age and race are the only known risk factors.
A routine physical exam will be done to see if you have any unusual results, such as lumps. Other tests are used to diagnose thymus cancer:
- Chest x-ray
- Imaging tests such as PET, CT, and MRI
- Biopsy with microscopic examination of thymus cells.
- The staging system is a method of classifying cancer based on its size, extent, and other characteristics.
Depending on the size of the tumor (T), the spread of lymph nodes (N), and the presence of cancer metastases (M), thymus cancer is shown by a TNM staging system that manages the disease from stage 4 to stage1.
Stage 1 is not vascular, but in stage 4, cancer has spread to distant organs such as the liver or kidneys. as well as your overall health.
Thymus cancer treatment
Giving them a unique advantage over other medical centres in treating these types of thymus cancers. Stanford’s medical oncology team has a special focus on thymic malignancy and is actively involved in the international interest group on thymic malignancy, as well as conducting clinical trials on these diseases.
The most common surgical incision to remove a thymoma is a median sternotomy. It is a vertical incision through the sternum, which provides excellent exposure of the anterior mediastinum. Since the muscles of the chest wall are not cut with this incision, the postoperative pain will be mild and the recovery will not belong.
Minor thymomas can be treated with Watts (video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery thymectomy), but this is a growing area that is at the forefront of our minds as we carefully approach patient safety. We are in the most experienced centres in transcervical thymectomy for mastenia gravis, but we believe that this procedure should be assigned mainly to patients who do not have a thymoma; It should not be used for more than one given small thymoma (less than 2 cm) at risk of tumor cell rupture.