Thymus Transplant

Our lymphatic system is an integral part of the immune system that comprises of a network of lymphatic vessels. These vessels carry a clear fluid to the heart. Thymus gland is one of the components of the lymphatic system. It is an organ which is located in the chest, underneath the breastbone. White blood cells called lymphocytes are produced by thymus gland. These blood cells help in fighting infection.

A combination of lining cells (epithelial cells) and lymphoid cells (lymphocytes or immune cells) is known as Thymus. Thymus plays a critical role during the growing up years of an individual. These glands are enlarged during childhood, become of about 40 grams at its peak period during puberty and then shrink in size thereafter.

Thymus Cancer develops when cancer cells get formed in the outer surface of the thymus. Thymoma and Thymic Carcinoma are two main types of thymus cancer. Thymic Carcinoma is also known as type C Thymoma. Both these cancers are rare. In comparison to Thymoma; Thymic Carcinoma is a more violent disease and hence more difficult to treat.

What is Thymoma, Thymic Carcinomas & Thymic Neoplasms

Thymoma is a rare tumor that develops in the thymus gland. It grows at a slow pace and does not spread beyond the thymus gland. Thymic carcinoma is also a rare tumor of the thymus, but it grows at an aggressive speed and can spread even to the distant organs of the body. Thymic neoplasm is a combination of thymoma and thymic carcinoma tumors.

Thymus Cancer Symptoms

Forty percent of the people diagnosed with Thymus disease do not have any symptom when they are diagnosed. In many cases, it gets diagnosed during medical tests for unrelated diseases.

Some people have symptoms like:

  •  Breathing difficulties
  •  Chest pain
  •  Persistent cough
  •  Trouble in swallowing
  •  Weight Loss
  •  Loss of Appetite
  •  Dizziness
  •  Muscle Weakness
  •  Double vision
  •  Drooping eyelids
  •  Arm or Facial Swelling
  •  Difficulty in swallowing
  •  Anemia
  •  Frequent infections

As symptoms are not present in all patients; and also because they are very non-specific in nature, the diagnosis of this type of cancer gets delayed.

Thymus Cancer Causes

There is not much information available about why thymus cancer develops. Through research it has been ascertained that this type of cancer is caused by some DNA changes that occur in the thymus cancer cells. DNA means the chemicals in our cells that together make our genes. Still, the medical fraternity is short of the information regarding how changes occur, why changes occur and how these changes could lead to thymus cancer.

Thymus Gland Disorders


Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) is a rare condition in which an individual carries mutation in the T cell development regulating gene. SCID disrupts the normal growth of T cells in immune cells including that of the thymus. This is a congenital condition that severely affects a child’s immune system. As a result s/he suffers from acute infections.

DiGeorge Syndrome

This syndrome signifies that a piece of chromosome along with the genes that it contains is missing in a human body. This leads to poor development of the thymus along with other organs of the immune system. Frequent illnesses and low capability of the body to fight infections are results of this syndrome.

Autoimmune Problems

In this disorder, the immune system of the body attacks the body cells and substances that make up a cell, by mistakenly considering it a foreign and harmful substance.

Myasthenia Gravis


This condition refers to the thymus gland that does not shrink with age as per the normal cycle. Since it continues being large even after puberty; it starts creating abnormalities inside the body. Due to this condition, the thymus becomes over reactive. It produces cells that promote muscle contraction and weakness. The eye muscles are likely to get affected first due to this disorder. Poor muscle function in other parts of the body, difficulty in swallowing and slurred speech are a result of this disorder.

Nezelof Syndrome


This disorder erupts due to underdevelopment of Thymus. It causes severe infections. Bronchiectasis, emphysema, pyoderma, hepatosplenomegaly and diarrhea are some of the medical conditions which are the symptoms of this disorder.

Thymus Cancer Diagnosis


Thymus cancer diagnosis is done through:

  •  General physical examination to see whether there are any lumps
  •  Chest X ray
  •  Imaging Tests such as CT Scan, MRI, PET Scan
  •  Microscopic examination of Thymus Cells through Biopsy

To classify cancer based on its size and other characteristics; a staging system known as the TNM staging system is made use of. This staging system classifies the disease into Stage I, Stage II, Stage III & Stage IV. The staging is done on the basis of the extent or size of the Thymus tumor. Stage I means that the cancer is at the primary stage ; whereas stage IV signifies that cancer has spread to other parts of the body as well.

Thymus Cancer Treatment

Treatment of the cancer depends upon the stage of the disease. Since several treatment options are available, the treatment plan might include more than one kind of treatment like:


Tumor in thymus gland and tissues of other related diseases can be removed through surgery. Cancerous cells in thymus can also be eliminated through surgical procedures.


If the cancer has reached an advanced stage, then radiation therapy is recommended by specialists so that the tumor shrinks a bit before getting operated. Radiation is also administered after the surgery if the cancer cells were not completely removed through surgery. High energy rays during radiation damage the DNA of the cancer cells.


In this procedure, drugs are used to kill cancer. The drugs are administered intravenously through a vein. The medicine reaches the entire body and kills cancer cells wherever they have spread.

Hormone Therapy

This is another option for the cancer patients. Certain hormones in our body facilitate the growth of cancer. If the body has hormone receptors then, special drugs are administered so that the action of hormone on the growth of cancer cells gets blocked.

Thymus Cancer After Treatment

Even when the treatment is successfully done, regular visits to the doctor is important to ward off any side effects from the strong treatment that the body has undergone. Also, risk of re-eruption of cancer cells cannot be ruled out. One can take help of support groups or counseling as an after treatment or simultaneously along with the treatment to keep away negative feelings, pessimism and anxiety. One can even get home health care services as an after treatment.

Thymus Transplant

Thymus transplant is done to treat infants who are suffering from DiGeorge syndrome. In some cases of Nezeolf syndrome too, thymus transplant is advised by specialists as these two are conditions which are related to underdeveloped or missing parts of the thymus.

Thymus Cancer Survival Rate and Cost

Since, thymus cancer is an uncommon disease, ascertaining its survival rate is very difficult. Moreover, people suffering from this disease can die of other reasons as well. Speaking broadly, the survival rate of stage 1 patients is 74%, stage II patients is 73%, stage III patients is 64% and stage IV patients is 45%. Some patients might live longer and their disease might get completely cured too.

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