Thymic lymphoma is a type of blood cancer. It happens when white blood cells called lymphocytes become cancerous. These types of blood cells come from the thymus gland, which sits behind your breastbone and in front of your heart.
Some types of blood cancer, called Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, may start in or affect your thymus. Hodgkin’s thymic lymphoma is more common than non-Hodgkin’s thymic lymphoma. But all thymic cancers, or cancer that starts in or affects your thymus gland, are rare.
People with thymic lymphoma may not have symptoms until their cancer starts to grow and spread beyond their thymus. Doctors don’t usually find the disease until someone reports symptoms.
Thymic lymphoma may also cause you to develop a mass, or growing tumor, in the middle of your chest. In rare cases, it can press against other body parts that are nearby and cause symptoms like:
In some cases, a tumor presses against a large blood vessel near the thymus called your superior vena cava, which brings blood from your upper body to your heart. When that happens, you can have symptoms like:
- Swelling in your face, neck, or arm that may be blue in color
- Swollen veins in your neck or chest area
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Headache that gets worse when you lean forward
When you have these symptoms, it’s important to let your doctor know. They can ask questions, examine you, and run tests to know for sure if you have thymic lymphoma or if another condition is causing your symptoms.