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What to Know About Surgery for Thymus Cancer

Most people with thymus cancer have surgery as the first step in treatment.

Surgery is the most common treatment for thymus cancer. Sometimes, doctors use surgery to diagnose cancer instead of taking tissue samples for a biopsy. During surgery, the surgeon usually removes the tumor and some surrounding tissue. He or she also removes your whole thymus through a cut in your breastbone. This surgery is called a sternotomy. The surgeon may enter the chest from the sides instead. If the tumor is small, he or she can go between the ribs and use a small video camera as a guide in removing the tumor.

Your best chance for being cured of thymus cancer is if the entire tumor can be removed surgically. Some doctors believe that there is some benefit in removing only part of the tumor, even if the whole tumor cannot be removed. Others, however, will not recommend surgery in these cases, and will instead suggest other therapies, such as radiation and chemotherapy.

Potential side effects from surgery for thymus cancer

After surgery, you may have pain in the area operated on. Some discomfort is normal after surgery. It will not last long and usually can be eased with medication. With a sternotomy, which is when the surgeon opens the chest wall, there is a low risk of infection. More serious side effects can include pneumonia and excessive bleeding. Before surgery for thymus cancer, discuss other risks with your surgeon. 


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