Thymus gland cancer

Cancer of the thymus gland is rare, but it can be difficult to diagnose and treat.

 

What is thymus gland cancer?

The thymus is a small gland located in the chest. It helps the body to develop white blood cells called T lymphocytes. White blood cells help your body fight infection. Cancer of the thymus gland is rare, and it can be difficult to diagnose and treat.

Most thymus tumours develop at the front of the chest. In very rare cases, they can form in the neck.

There are two types of thymus gland cancer:

  • Thymomas are the most common kind of tumour. They grow slowly and don’t usually spread to other parts of the body. They mainly affect people aged 40-60

 

  • Thymic carcinoma is much rarer. The tumours grow faster than thymomas and often spread to other parts of the body. People of any age can be affected but it’s more likely if you’re middle-aged or older

Causes of thymus gland cancer

No one is sure exactly what causes thymus gland cancer. However, you may be more at risk if you have other conditions including myasthenia gravis, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of thymus gland cancer

Thymoma

There may be no obvious signs at first. It might only be found by chance during a chest X-ray for some other problem. If you do have any symptoms, they might include coughing, fatigue or difficulty with swallowing

Thymic carcinoma

Most people have symptoms. They include:

• A hoarse voice

• Breathlessness

• Chest pain

• Having a long-term cough

Having these symptoms doesn’t mean you have thymus gland cancer, but it’s best to get them checked by a doctor. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.

Test and diagnosis

Your doctor will ask you about any symptoms you’ve had. They may also check to see if you have any lumps. If they think you might have thymus gland cancer they will refer you to a specialist for further tests including:

  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy to take a small sample of tissue for testing
  • Chest X-ray
  • Scans including CT, PET-CT and MRI

Treatments we offer

Treatment of thymus gland cancer depends on how advanced the tumour is. In the early stages, surgery alone may treat the cancer. In advanced stages, radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be required.

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

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Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

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Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Meet our doctors

Our-doctors

Everything we do is focused on designing better care for our patients. With a network of 12 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard.

We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.

Meet our doctors

Search for a centre near you

Birmingham

Little Aston Hall Drive, Sutton Coldfield, B74 3BF

+44 (0)121 353 3055

Bristol

300 Park Avenue, Aztec West, Bristol, BS32 4SY

01454 456500

Cambridge

The Oaks, Fordham Road, Newmarket, CB8 7XN

+44 (0)1223 907 600

Chelmsford

Springfield Cancer Centre, Lawn Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 7GU

+44 (0)1245 987 901

Cromwell Hospital

164-178 Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW5 0TU, UK

020 7460 5626

Elstree

Unit 710, Centennial Park, Centennial Avenue, Elstree, Borehamwood, WD6 3SZ

+44 (0)208 236 9040

Guildford

BMI St Martha Oncology Centre, 46 Harvey Road, Guildford, GU1 3LX

+44 (0)1483 806 000

Maidstone

17 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4UA

+44 (0)1732 207 000

Milton Keynes

Sunrise Parkway, Linford Wood East, Milton Keynes, MK14 6LS

+44 (0)1908 467 700

Nottingham

The Park Centre for oncology, Sherwood Lodge Drive, Burntstump Country Park, Nottingham, NG5 8RX

+44 (0)115 966 2250

Oxford

Sandy Lane West, Peters Way, Oxford, OX4 6LB

+44 (0)1865 237 700

Portsmouth

Bartons Road, Havant, PO9 5NA

+44 (0)23 9248 4992

Southampton

Spire Hospital, Chalybeate Close, Southampton, SO16 6UY

+44 (0)238 076 4961

Windsor

69 Alma Road, Windsor, SL4 3HD

+44 (0)1753 418 444