Thymic epithelial tumors are rare tumors that occur in less than 5 people per million. The abnormal mass grows in the area between the lungs and near the heart. Among this rare cancer, thymomas are the most common; however, other thymic cancers can occur, including:
- Squamous cell carcinomas
- NUT carcinomas
- Lymphoepithelioma-like carcinomas
Although most thymic epithelial tumors grow slowly, some can recur and metastasize. Therefore, if possible, these tumors are removed through surgery. Usually, most people do not need any additional therapy after complete removal of the tumor. However, in some circumstances, pre- or postoperative additional therapy, such as radiation or chemotherapy, is recommended.
Approximately 40% of thymomas are associated with a paraneoplastic syndrome, which can lead to additional symptoms. Furthermore, about 15% to 20% of people with myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disorder, are found to have a thymoma. Recent evidence suggests that symptoms of myasthenia gravis might be alleviated by thymectomy in some people.
Mayo Clinic has one of the largest practices treating thymic epithelial tumors. Mayo Clinic thymoma experts see approximately 50 to 100 people with thymic epithelial tumors a year. They are evaluated by a multidisciplinary team made up of medical oncologists, thoracic surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists and radiologists.
In most cases, Mayo Clinic experts prescribe a resection of the tumor, usually by video-assisted thoracoscopy. Mayo Clinic's multidisciplinary team reevaluates each person after surgery and makes recommendations for additional treatment if deemed necessary.