Thymoma is a relatively uncommon type of cancer that develops on the surface of the thymus gland, a small lymphoid organ located behind the breastbone that’s responsible for creating T lymphocytes (also known as “T cells”) and regulating the immune system. Thymoma usually grows slowly, and it’s very rare for it to spread beyond the thymus.
What causes thymoma?
Unfortunately, it’s still unclear exactly what causes thymoma to develop. However, certain genetic factors appear to increase someone’s chances of developing this type of cancer. Also, older men seem to have a greater chance of developing thymoma than women and younger men. Some researchers believe that complications with the immune system—such as hypogammaglobulinemia, lupus, myasthenia gravis, red cell aplasia, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis and ulcerative colitis—can lead to the development of thymoma. This theory isn’t conclusive, however, given that many individuals with these conditions never develop thymoma.
What are the symptoms of thymoma?
Because the thymus is located within the chest, thymoma often affects the respiratory system, causing symptoms like difficulty breathing, a dry cough and chest pain. Other symptoms of thymoma include:
- Muscle weakness
- Double vision
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swelling in the face and hands
- Recurring infections
It’s important to note, however, that thymoma can present differently from one person to another, and some individuals don’t experience any symptoms at all.
Get the treatment you need at Moffitt Cancer Center
If you suspect that you have thymoma, you can rely on Moffitt Cancer Center for diagnosis and treatment. The specialists in our Thoracic Oncology Program offer a wide array of therapies for thymus cancers, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and clinical trials.