Mayo Clin Proc. 1993 Nov;68(11):1110-23. doi: 10.1016/s0025-6196(12)60907-0.


Thymomas and thymic carcinomas are thymic epithelial tumors that constitute approximately 15% of all mediastinal masses. From 28 to 66% of thymomas cause chest symptoms as the initial manifestation; the rest are discovered on routine chest roentgenograms or during investigations prompted by the presence of a paraneoplastic syndrome. Forty percent of patients with thymoma have one or more paraneoplastic syndromes, including myasthenia gravis, pure red cell aplasia, and hypogammaglobulinemia. Extrathymic malignant lesions develop in up to 20% of patients. Traditional histologic classifications have not accurately predicted tumor behavior; a recently developed classification based on cellular differentiation toward thymic medullary or cortical epithelium may correlate better with prognosis. Nevertheless, the prognosis is best predicted by stage of the tumor determined intraoperatively and is poorer in patients with incomplete resection than in those with complete resection of the thymoma. In addition to surgical intervention, irradiation and chemotherapy have important roles in the management of thymomas, particularly in advanced stages. In this article, the clinical manifestations, diagnosis, pathologic features, staging, and treatment of thymomas are reviewed, and the prognosis of affected patients is discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / etiology
  • Prognosis
  • Thymoma* / complications
  • Thymoma* / diagnosis
  • Thymoma* / pathology
  • Thymoma* / therapy
  • Thymus Gland / anatomy & histology
  • Thymus Gland / physiology
  • Thymus Neoplasms* / complications
  • Thymus Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Thymus Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Thymus Neoplasms* / therapy