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Chest Surg Clin N Am. 2001 May;11(2):421-37.

Surgery for thymoma.

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Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, New York, USA.


Although thymoma is an uncommon tumor, it represents the most frequently encountered tumor of the anterior mediastinum. These tumors represent an interesting and even peculiar group of lesions by virtue of their association with paraneoplastic disorders, their relatively indolent course, and their predisposition for local recurrence. The initial treatment of choice for patients with thymoma that do not present with unresectable local or diffuse metastatic disease is complete surgical resection. The goals of surgery are complete excision of the lesion with total thymectomy and complete exploration to rule out the presence of noncontiguous disease that may be resectable. Often, complete resection may require the resection of surrounding involved structures including pericardium, pleura, lung, and even major vascular structures. Some authors have suggested VATS or VATS-assisted techniques for small thymomas. Capsular invasion, however, often can be subtle, and the completeness of resection is of prime importance in countless studies. With recurrences appearing up to 5 and even 10 years postoperatively, time will tell if these minimally invasive techniques are comparable with current standard approaches. Multiple studies have failed to determine conclusively the role of induction chemotherapy and adjuvant radiation. Prospective multi-institutional trials are required to elucidate further the role of such therapies in these rare tumors. In the interim, the authors continue to recommend postoperative radiation for all patients undergoing resection with the exception of stage I patients. Some promising reports on response to chemotherapy have led them to develop an induction chemotherapy protocol for patients with clinically advanced disease.

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