If thymus cancer spreads

Cancer cells can spread from the thymus to other parts of the body. This spread is called metastasis.

Understanding how a type of cancer usually grows and spreads helps your healthcare team plan your treatment and future care.

Thymoma doesn’t usually spread outside the chest. Thymic carcinoma is more likely to spread widely throughout the chest and to other parts of the body (distant sites).

If thymus cancer spreads, it most commonly spreads to the following:

  • nearby fat tissue
  • thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs and lines the chest cavity (pleura)
  • lungs
  • sac around the heart (pericardium)

Thymus cancer may also spread to the following areas and distant sites:

  • large blood vessels near the heart such as the superior vena cava and aorta
  • muscle layer of the heart (myocardium)
  • esophagus
  • windpipe (trachea)
  • lymph nodes in the chest or neck
  • liver
  • brain
  • bone
  • kidneys

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Thymus Cancer: Early Detection, Diagnosis and Staging. 2014: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/thymus-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging.html.
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Thymoma. 2016: http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/thymoma.
  • Brierley JD, Gospodarowicz MK, Wittekind C (eds.). TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours. 8th ed. Wiley Blackwell; 2017.
  • Cameron RB, Loehrer PJ, Lee PP . Neoplasms of the mediastinum. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 43:560-569.
  • Penn Medicine . All About Thymoma and Thymic Carcinoma . University of Pennsylvania ; 2016 : https://www.oncolink.org/.

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