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Am I At Risk for Thymus Cancer?

There is no way to know for sure if you’re going to get thymus cancer. And there is no known way to prevent it. Certain factors can make you more likely to get a certain type of cancer than another person. These are called risk factors. At this time, doctors do not know of any risk factors for thymus cancer. However, the National Cancer Institute states that people with thymus cancer frequently also have an autoimmune disease, such as one of the following: 

  • Myasthenia gravis 

  • Red cell aplasia 

  • Hypogammaglobulinemia

  • Polymyositis

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Sjogren syndrome 

Some studies have suggested a link between being exposed to radiation in the upper chest area and thymus cancer, but this has not been proved. Men and women are equally likely to develop a tumor in the thymus. The risk of thymus cancer increases with age.

Research is ongoing to find factors that increase a person's likelihood of getting thymus cancer.

Thymus cancer screening for early detection

Thymus cancer is rare, and right now there is no good way to screen for thymus cancer in people without symptoms. The best way to find thymus tumors early is to be aware of the symptoms. However, patients with some autoimmune diseases have a higher chance of having undetected thymomas. For people with these autoimmune conditions, doctors may order an imaging test of the chest, such as a CT scan, which can detect any tumors in the thymus.