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Thymic Tumour

Overview

The thymus is a small organ that lies in the upper area of the chest under the breastbone and is part of the lymph system. It makes lymphocytes (white blood cells) that protect the body against infections. Thymoma and thymic carcinoma are diseases in which malignant (cancer) cells are formed on the outer surface of the thymus.

People with thymoma often have other diseases like polymyositis, myasthenia gravis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, thyroiditis, Sjogren syndrome, and hypogammaglobulinemia.

Symptoms

Sometimes thymoma and thymic carcinoma do not cause symptoms. Possible signs of thymoma and thymic carcinoma are cough and chest pain. The cancer may be detected during a routine chest x-ray. The following symptoms are sometimes caused by thymoma or thymic carcinoma. The patient should consult a doctor if any of the following problems occur:

  • A persistent cough
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Muscle weakness

Some thymic tumors produce too much ACTH which is a substance that causes the adrenal glands to produce an excess amount of cortisol. This leads to symptoms such as:

  • weight gain
  • muscle weakness
  • diabetes
  • increased body and facial hair
  • thin or darkened skin (Cushing's syndrome)

Causes

There is not much evidence about why thymus cancers develop. Research shows that some DNA changes occur more often in thymus cancer cells than in normal cells. (DNA is the chemical in each of the cells in the body that makes up the genes). However, it is still not clear why these changes occur in some people and exactly how the changes occur. It is also not clear how the DNA changes might cause cancer to form.