Diagnosis & staging
These are tests that may be used to diagnose this type of cancer.
- Tumours are often discovered through chest x-rays that have been done for unrelated reasons.
- A chest x-ray or CT Scan is used as a beginning assessment.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may show if the tumour has spread.
- A fine needle biopsy (removal and examination of a small bit of tissue) is essential for the definite diagnosis of thymus cancer.
For more information tests used to diagnose cancer, see our Recommended Websites, Diagnostic Tests section.
Types and Stages
- There are three main types of thymus cancer:
- Thymoma (most common)
- Thymic carcinoma (uncommon)
- Thymic carcinoid tumour (least common)
Staging describes the extent of a cancer. The TNM
classification system is used as the standard around the world. In general a lower number in each category means a better prognosis. The stage of the cancer is used to plan the treatment.
T describes the site and size of the main tumour (primary)
N describes involvement of lymph nodes
M relates to whether the cancer has spread (presence or absence of distant metastases).
Intact capsule or growth within the capsule. (The capsule is the thin outer layer of the thymus).
Microscopic spread into the nearby fatty tissue or mediastinal pleura (thin layer covering the space between the two lungs).
Visible spread into the nearby organs: lungs, great vessels, pericardium.
Extensive spread within the chest or lymph nodes.