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What Is the Difference Between Thymoma & Thymic Carcinoma?

Thymus gland

Many people tend to confuse thymoma with thymic carcinoma. Both are relatively rare types of cancer affecting the thymus gland—a lymphoid organ that’s responsible for producing T lymphocytes (T cells)—but there are some key differences between them.

Thymoma vs. thymic carcinoma

Thymoma differs from thymic carcinoma in terms of appearance. While thymoma cells typically resemble noncancerous thymus cells, thymic carcinoma cells look very different. Thymoma also differs from thymic carcinoma with regard to spread (metastasis). Thymoma cells tend to grow very slowly, and it’s rare for them to spread to other parts of the body. Thymic carcinoma cells, on the other hand, grow rapidly and tend to spread throughout the body. Indeed, by the time thymic carcinoma is diagnosed, there’s a significant chance that it will have already metastasized. Therefore, thymic carcinoma generally requires more complex treatment. It’s also important to note that thymoma is more common than thymic carcinoma.

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"Although thymomas and thymic carcinomas are rare tumors, we see them commonly at Moffitt since they are sent to us from all over Florida. Thymic tumor management may be complex and definitely requires experienced surgeons and oncologists to get the best results."

- Dr. Lary Robinson

Diagnosis and treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center

Although thymoma and thymic carcinoma are different types of cancer, they tend to produce similar symptoms, including coughing, difficulty breathing, chest pain, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing and loss of appetite. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you can turn to the specialists at Moffitt Cancer Center. The skilled providers in our Thoracic Oncology Program will work together to diagnose your condition and provide you with any necessary treatment.

Requesting an appointment to speak with one of the experts at Moffitt Cancer Center is easy—you can do so by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing a new patient registration form online. We look forward to speaking with you.