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Thymus Cancer: Treatment Choices

There are various treatment choices for thymus tumors. Which may work best for you? It depends on a number of factors. These include the type, size, location, and stage of your tumor. Factors also include your age, overall health, and what side effects you’ll find acceptable.

Learning about your treatment options

You may have questions and concerns about your treatment options. You may also want to know how you’ll feel and function after treatment, and if you’ll have to change your normal activities.

Your healthcare provider is the best person to answer your questions. He or she can tell you what your treatment choices are, how successful they’re expected to be, and what the risks and side effects are. Your healthcare provider may recommend a certain treatment. Or he or she may offer more than one, and ask you to decide which one you’d like to use. It can be hard to make this decision. It’s important to take the time you need to make the best decision.

Deciding on the best plan may take some time. Talk with your healthcare provider about how much time you can take to explore your options. You may want to get another opinion before deciding on your treatment plan. In fact, some insurance companies may require a second opinion. You may also want to involve your family and friends in this process.

Understanding the goals of treatment for thymus tumors

For many thymus tumors, the goal of treatment is to cure them. If cure is not possible, treatment may be used to shrink the tumor or keep it under control for as long as possible. Treatment can also improve your quality of life by helping to control the symptoms of the disease. The goals of treatment can include one or more of these things:

  • Remove the tumor in your thymus

  • Remove or destroy tumors in other parts of your body

  • Stop or slow the growth or spread of thymus cancer cells

  • Prevent or delay the cancer's return

  • Ease symptoms from the cancer, such as pain or pressure on your organs

Types of treatment for thymus tumors

Several types of treatment can be used for thymus tumors. Different combinations of treatment may be used. Your treatment depends on the stage (extent) of the tumor and other factors. Each treatment has its own goals.


Surgery is the most common treatment for thymus tumors. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and some of the tissue around it. In almost all cases, your healthcare provider removes the whole thymus.

Radiation therapy

The goal of radiation therapy is to kill cancer cells using X-rays. Healthcare providers use this treatment most often to get rid of any remaining cancer cells after surgery. Radiation can also be used before surgery to try to shrink the tumor. Or it can be used as part of the main treatment in people who cannot have surgery for some reason. Radiation is often given with chemotherapy.


Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer medicines. Its goal is to kill cancer cells and reduce the chance that the cancer will spread to other parts of your body. Healthcare providers may give chemotherapy either before, after, or in place of surgery. They may also use it to treat the cancer if it has spread to other parts of your body.

Supportive care

Your healthcare provider may suggest treatments that help ease your symptoms, but don’t treat the cancer. These can sometimes be used along with other treatments. Or your healthcare provider may suggest supportive care if he or she believes that other treatments are more likely to do you more harm than good.

Researchers are also studying other treatments. These include targeted medicines.

Clinical trials for new treatments

Researchers are always looking for new ways to treat thymus tumors. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Talk with your healthcare provider to find out if there are any clinical trials you should consider.

Talking with your healthcare provider

At first, thinking about treatment options may seem overwhelming. Talk with your healthcare providers and loved ones. Make a list of questions. Consider the benefits and possible side effects of each option. Discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider before making a decision.

Online Medical Reviewer: Alteri, Rick, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Gersten, Todd, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2016
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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