Thymoma

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What are the stages of thymoma?

The stage of a tumor refers to the extent to which it has spread to other local organs and tissues or to other parts of the body. There are two commonly used staging systems for thymoma, both of which classify the tumors as stage 1 through stage 4, depending upon the extent of spread and the degree of tissue invasion. While there are some differences in the two methods used to stage thymomas, a stage 1 tumor represents an encapsulated tumor (surrounded by a capsular structure) that has not spread outside of the thymus gland. Stage 4 represents the opposite extreme, in which invasion and spread to distant organs has occurred.

What are types of treatment options for thymoma?

Surgery is the primary medical treatment for thymoma. The success of the surgery depends upon the particular characteristics of the tumor and its precise location; tumors that can be completely removed have a higher surgical cure rate. If all evidence of disease is unable to be removed and microscopic, or tumor remains after surgery, then radiation therapy and chemotherapy have been used in addition to surgical resection. Chemotherapy is generally used for metastatic thymoma and thymoma that cannot be removed with surgery.

What is the prognosis for thymoma?

The prognosis (outcome) for thymoma is dependent upon the stage of the tumor as well as the ability to successfully remove the tumor by surgery. Thymic carcinomas tend to behave more aggressively and have a worse prognosis than thymomas. Thymomas tend to be slow-growing tumors, and the prognosis is excellent for those with stage 1 or stage 2 thymoma. In a study of patients whose thymomas were completely removed by surgery, only 3% of the tumors recurred. Even 83% of patients with stage 3 thymoma were alive 10 years after diagnosis. The 10-year survival rate for stage 4 thymoma is approximately 47%. Overall, a majority of thymoma patients will live at least five years, while fewer than half or those with thymic carcinoma are expected to live that long.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/12/2017

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