Thymoma and Myasthenia Gravis


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One of the most frustrating things about having fibromyalgia is getting an accurate diagnosis. After all, there are a number of other conditions that cause symptoms similar to fibromyalgia, like myasthenia gravis. Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune condition that causes symptoms like chronic pain and fatigue and it’s quite possible for someone who suffers from it to be misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia. And that’s especially dangerous because myasthenia gravis often causes dangerous complications like a thymoma.

A thymoma is a cancerous tumor that grows in the lymphatic system and often accompanies cases of myasthenia gravis. So what exactly is a thymoma? Could you be suffering from one and have no idea? And what can you do to treat it?

What Is Thymoma?

A thymoma is a tumor that grows in the thymus gland. The thymus helps produce lymphocytes, which are a type of cell that helps your immune system function.  So when you have a tumor there, it can interfere with the ability of your immune system to regulate itself.

This might explain why it’s so common in people who suffer from myasthenia gravis. After all, myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune condition where the immune cells begin attacking your body’s own tissue.

In cases of MG, this results in inflammation in tissue all over the body. But the most noticeable symptoms of MG are the resulting paralysis in the muscles of the face. As a result, people with MG often have drooping eye lids or problems speaking on one-half of the face.

Thymomas affect as many as 20% of people with MG. Thymomas are often benign, which means that they aren’t immediately dangerous. But occasionally, a thymoma can metastasize and begin spreading rapidly, destroying healthy cells and growing into vital organs like the heart and lungs.

And even benign tumors can be dangerous when they begin pressing on nerves or interfering with the heart’s ability to beat. And these tumors can cause other symptoms as well.

How Can You Know If You Have It?

Tumors tend to grow slowly unless they are cancerous, which means that often, symptoms develop gradually. And almost half of all tumors are asymptomatic, which means they produce no symptoms at all.

But the most common symptoms of a thymoma relate to the fact that the thymus gland is located so close to the lungs. So, a tumor in the thymus can grow large enough to begin pressing on the lungs, which leads to shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing. In addition, less common symptoms include fever, night sweats, and weight loss.

Generally, thymomas aren’t that dangerous, but they can be deadly when they become cancerous.

How Is It Treated?

Your likelihood of recovering from a cancerous tumor in the thymus depends on how early you’re able to begin treatment. Tumors go through four stages of growth. In the case of thymomas, people who catch it in the first stage have a very high chance of recovery, whereas people with stage four tumors have a much lower chance. So, it’s important to begin treatment early and to be aware of the signs that you might be suffering from one.

The treatment itself depends on whether the tumor is benign or not. In the case of a benign tumor, it may not even need to be treated. If it is growing slowly and doesn’t seem to be threatening any important organs or causing serious symptoms, most doctors will leave it alone. This approach is called monitoring and basically, the doctor will just check up on it once in a while to make sure it hasn’t become cancerous.

But for cancerous tumors, surgery is usually necessary. Essentially, a surgeon will try to remove as much of the tumor as they can without damaging too much of the surrounding tissue. If they are able to remove all of the tumor, then there’s a good chance that cancer will go into remission.

But if they are not able to do so, they may try some therapies to shrink what’s left of the tumor. The most common types of therapies for this are chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In chemotherapy, drugs are injected into the bloodstream that gradually kills off cancer cells, shrinking what’s left of the tumor.

This is the same principle behind radiation therapy. But instead of using chemicals, radiation therapy uses targeted radiation to shrink the tumor.

As with all cancers, the most important thing is to get treatment early as this leads to much better outcomes.

So, do you suffer from a thymoma? Do you think it could be related to fibromyalgia? Let us know in the comments.