Thymus cancer

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Treatments for stage 4 thymus cancer

The following are treatment options for stage 4 thymus cancer. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.


Chemotherapy is usually offered for stage 4 thymic carcinoma. A chemotherapy combination with cisplatin (Platinol AQ) is used most often. It may be given:

  • before surgery, either alone or at the same time as radiation therapy (called chemoradiation)
  • after surgery to control the growth of any remaining cancer
  • alone or at the same time as radiation therapy when surgery can’t be done

Radiation therapy

You may be offered radiation therapy for stage 4 thymus cancer. External radiation therapy may be given:

  • at the same time as chemotherapy (called chemoradiation) and before surgery to shrink the tumour
  • alone or at the same time as chemotherapy when surgery can’t be done
  • after surgery or chemotherapy to control the growth of any remaining cancer

Brachytherapy (a type of internal radiation therapy) may be used as palliative therapy for thymoma that has spread to the bronchi, especially when external radiation therapy has already been used.


You may be offered surgery for stage 4 thymomas. But because stage 4 thymus cancer has already spread to other parts of the body, surgery may not be possible.

Surgery is usually done after chemotherapy or chemoradiation. It is not usually the first treatment. A total thymectomy is done to remove the thymus and as much cancer as possible that has grown into tissue around the thymus.

Debulking surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible may be used for some cases of stage 4 thymus cancer. It mainly helps reduce symptoms caused by growth of the cancer.

If thymus cancer has spread to one part of the pleura (isolated pleural metastases), surgery may be used to remove the area.

If you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment

You may want to consider a type of care to make you feel better without treating the cancer itself. This may be because the cancer treatments don’t work anymore, they’re not likely to improve your condition or they may cause side effects that are hard to cope with. There may also be other reasons why you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment.

Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you choose care and treatment for advanced cancer.

Clinical trials

Talk to your doctor about clinical trials open to people with thymus cancer in Canada. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.


The large tubes, or airways, that branch off from the windpipe (trachea) into the lungs, where they branch into smaller tubes (bronchioles) that end in the alveoli (air sacs). Bronchi carry air to and from the lungs.

Bronchialmeans referring to or having to do with the bronchi, as in bronchial adenoma.

Bronchi is the plural of bronchus.


The thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs and lines the chest cavity. It protects and cushions the lungs and produces a fluid that acts like a lubricant so the lungs can move smoothly in the chest cavity.