Thymus gland is an organ located in the chest cavity between the lungs. It hugely varies in size throughout a person’s life depending on age. It grows in size during the childhood phase and then decreases in size and shrinks to its smallest size during old age. Thymus gland helps in increasing immunity during childhood. It is essentially formed of two types of cells namely lymphocytes which are immune cells and epithelial which are also called the lining cells. The exact causes of thymus gland cancer are unknown and so are the risks that predispose any person to thymus cancer. Through constant study of patients affected with thymus cancer, physicians have observed that a higher percentage of patients coming in for diagnosis are smokers or work in industries that expose them to carcinogenic compounds during various processes. The possibility of DNA changes and hereditary risk passed on through the DNA are also being studied as the possible reasons of thymus gland cancer.

As thymus cancer is hugely asymptomatic there are no standard screening tests recommended to detect the disease at an early stage. A majority of cases do not show any symptoms for thymus gland cancer and it is accidentally detected through advanced imaging techniques when scouting for other problems. Some of the symptoms exhibited by a few patients include chest pain, breathlessness, fatigue, sudden weight loss and fever. The most common symptom is chest pain caused by the growing tumor. When the tumor increases in size it exerts pressure on the adjoining organs and causes a lot of discomfort. This proves to be one of the first symptoms that patients suffering from thymus gland cancer complain about. Persistent cough, loss of appetite and problem in swallowing are also associated and identified as symptoms of thymus cancer.

Apart from the symptoms listed above the tumor can cause other symptoms especially if it presses against the vena cava which brings blood to the head and upper part of the body. The symptoms when the tumor presses against vena cava include swelling of face, upper chest and neck, a feeling of dizziness and headaches. There is also a visible swelling in the veins in the upper body.

Summary: The causes and risks that increase the chances of contracting thymus cancer are not well understood and researches around the world are working continuously to make the disease more predictable and the treatment more effective.