Surgical treatment strategies for invasive thymoma

J Thorac Dis. 2020 Dec;12(12):7619-7625. doi: 10.21037/jtd-19-3045.


A thymoma is a common anterior thymus mediastinal tumor composed of atypical epithelial tumor cells, though the morbidity rate is lower as compared to other types of thoracic malignancy such as lung cancer and lung metastasis from another primary cancer. As a result, clinical data regarding thymomas have not been well discussed as compared to those of other carcinomas. Also, because of the low morbidity rate and insufficient clinical experience, oncological characteristics and clinical treatment options are poorly understood. Surgical complete resection is the most reliable option for clinical treatment of a thymoma. This tumor can easily develop adjacent to several different structures and nearby organs, such as the pericardium, lungs, and great vessels, which are easily invaded when the size is large, and a combined resection is then needed. When en bloc resection is considered to be difficult based on evaluation with preoperative modalities, induction chemotherapy followed by surgery is recommended. Moreover, when pleural dissemination is revealed during pre- or peri-operative procedures, volume reduction surgery has been reported by several groups to extend prognosis. On the other hand, in cases with a small-sized tumor, a minimally invasive surgical procedure, such as video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) or robotic-assisted thoracic surgery (RATS), is usually selected. Because of the wide variety of cases with thymoma, a deliberate strategy and skillful techniques are necessary for effectual surgical treatment. In this review, we discuss strategies that have been shown to be effective for treating patients with early and advanced thymoma, including those with involved adjacent organs.

Keywords: Surgical approach; advanced thymoma; en bloc resection.

Publication types

  • Review