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.
- Thymoma facts
- What is thymoma?
- What causes thymoma, and what are risk factors for thymoma?
- What are signs and symptoms of thymoma?
- What other types of medical conditions are associated with thymoma?
- What types of specialists treat thymomas?
- How do health care professionals diagnose a thymoma?
- What are the stages of thymoma?
- What are types of treatment options for thymoma?
- What is the prognosis for thymoma?
- Is it possible to prevent a thymoma?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
- A thymoma is a type of tumor or growth in the thymus gland. It can behave in a benign fashion and is said to be noninvasive. Less commonly, it can behave in a malignant or cancerous fashion and is said to be a malignant thymoma. A small percentage of thymomas are clearly malignant and are called thymic carcinomas (cancers). In general, thymic tumors are uncommon.
- The thymus gland is present in the front of the space between the lungs called the anterior mediastinum and behind the upper sternum. The thymus gland is larger during puberty, but then normally becomes smaller in adulthood.
- Thymomas are most frequently seen in people in the fourth and fifth decades of life.
- There are no known risk factors that predispose a person to developing a thymoma.
- Up to half of thymomas are asymptomatic, meaning they do not produce any symptoms or signs and are diagnosed when an imaging study of the chest is performed for another reason.
- Chest pain, shortness of breath, and cough are common symptoms that patients experience when symptoms do occur.
- Many patients with thymoma will have a so-called paraneoplastic syndrome. A paraneoplastic syndrome occurs preceding or concurrent with the discovery of a thymoma. These conditions accompany the cancer's development but are not a direct result of the disease as a lump or pain might be. They seem to be an indirect result of the cancer and may or may not improve with the treatment of the underlying disease. The most commonly associated condition with thymoma is myasthenia gravis, a disease of muscle. Twenty percent of patients with myasthenia gravis will be found to have a thymoma.
- Thymomas are slow-growing tumors, and the prognosis is excellent when they are discovered in their early stages. Five-year survival for thymoma patients receiving modern treatment approaches 80%. Patients with the more rare form of the disease called thymic carcinomas have a more aggressive disease with five-year survival even with treatment of only about 40% on average.
- Surgical removal is the mainstay of treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be used in cases in which surgical treatment is not effective in removing the entire tumor or in particularly aggressive cases.
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