Thymoma - Diagnosis

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How is thymoma diagnosed?

If a thymoma is not causing symptoms, it is sometimes identified incidentally, meaning it is found on an imaging test of the chest (for example, X-ray, computerized tomography or CT scan) that is performed for another reason. If symptoms are present, chest X-rays or other imaging studies, such as CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans or the combination of PET and CT scans, are typically carried out to identify the source of the symptoms. While a mass in the anterior mediastinum can be seen on imaging studies, the definitive diagnosis can only be established when the mass is either removed surgically and examined by a pathologist or when a biopsy (surgical removal of a small portion of tissue for diagnostic purposes) is taken. Such biopsies are only done in locally advanced cases which are not likely resectable for cure. The biopsy should not be done through, or violate, the pleural space around the lung. Microscopic examination of the tumor tissue is necessary to confirm the diagnosis of thymoma or thymic carcinoma.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Strudel, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: August 14

Ten years ago after an x-ray for chest pain they discovered I had a calcified thymus which was benign so they decided to do nothing. Then 2 years ago I had oral thrush that would not respond to treatment, and my doctor thought there might be a link to the thymus and sent me for an x-ray and it showed that the thymoma had invaded my lungs, superior vena cava and phrenic nerve. It has since been removed and I had radiotherapy. I still have to take medication for oral thrush.

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Comment from: ann, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: June 24

I had surgery for cervical cancer and developed pneumonia. X-ray showed a tumor grapefruit sized (larger than my size 9 gloved fist). The thymoma was removed and was determined to be cancerous. I had 6 multi-doses of chemotherapy. I developed myasthenia gravis (diagnosed by an ENT who watched a soap opera where a character had MG). I am still alive 30 plus years later.

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