What is Thymus Cancer?

Thymus cancer affects a gland positioned behind the breast bone at the center of the chest. The gland creates white blood cells that are part of the immune system and helps to fight off infection. The gland typically becomes fully developed in puberty and then it gradually stops functioning and shrinks to be replaced by fat and scar tissue.

Cancer of the Thymus is very rare and once again the causes are unknown. Typically they are benign and affect those between the ages of 40 and 60 years old, however there is one type that is extremely rare but can affect all ages and it is malignant, it is fast growing and can quickly spread to other parts of the body.

The typical symptoms are chest pains, coughing, shortness of breath and various other chest related symptoms. The cancer may even be found during a routine x-ray even if no symptoms were present.

The tests carried out to discover the extent of the cancer include an x-ray, a CT scan, an MRI scan and something known as a PET scan which uses a low-dose of a radioactive sugar being ingested into the body and a scan being performed to measure the amount of cellular activity present as cancerous cells are far more active. A needle biopsy of the affected region may also be performed to analyse the cells involved.

Surgery has to be done both to remove the affected area and to enable the doctor to see if the cancer has spread. If the cancer is contained within the gland then it can simply be removed, if it has spread radiation therapy is used to try to kill the remaining cells, chemotherapy drugs have also been found to be very effective against Thymus cancer and all three methods may be used to treat it.

Filed Under: Thymus Cancer

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