South African Medical Journal

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Management of invasive thymoma at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town

R.P. Abratt, P.A. Willcox, M. De Groot, C.H.C. Geddes, R. Chetty


Fifteen patients (median age 55 years; range 23 - 69 years) with macroscopic invasive thymoma or thymic carcinoma were treated at Groote Schuur Hospital between 1969 and 1988. Stage 3 (macroscopically invasive) disease was present in 12 patients (80%) and stage 4 (metastatic disease) in 3 (20%). Ten of the patients with stage 3 disease were treated by combined surgery and full-dose mediastinal irradiation; in 2 resection was not possible and they were treated with irradiation alone. One of the patients with stage 3 disease developed progressive thymoma (median follow-up 74 months). This patient and 2 others died; 1 from mediastinitis after surgery for thymic carcinoma and 1 of unrelated disease. Both patients treated by irradiation alone were free of disease at follow-up. In the patients with stage 3 disease, the relapse rate was 8% (crude) and the 5-year disease-free survival rate 86% (life table). The patients with stage 4 disease received cisplatin-based combination chemotherapy, which was combined with further irradiation and debulking surgery in 2 of the 3 cases. These patients died of malignant disease at between 5 and 42 months, although 1 had a temporary response to chemotherapy. Tumour extent is the most important prognostic factor in these patients. A multidisciplinary approach to therapy is required.

AJOL African Journals Online