Determining extent of invasion and follow-up of thymic epithelial malignancies

Marcelo F. Benveniste, Sonia L. Betancourt Cuellar, Brett W. Carter, Girish S. Shroff, Carol Wu, Edith M. Marom


Thymic malignancies may exhibit aggressive behavior such as invasion of adjacent structures and involvement of the pleura and pericardium. The role of imaging in the evaluation of primary thymic neoplasms is to properly assess tumor staging, with emphasis on the detection of local invasion and distant spread of disease, correctly identifying candidates for preoperative neoadjuvant therapy. Different imaging modalities are used in the initial investigation of thymic malignancies including chest radiography, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), in particular with [18F] fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG). At this moment, CT is the most common imaging modality on the assessment of thymic malignancies. MRI has the benefit of no emission of damaging ionizing radiation reducing the radiation dose to the patient when compared with CT. For this reason, MRI has been playing an important role in the evaluation of tumor invasion and follow up imaging studies which becomes even more relevant in young patients or those patients with prior history of radiation therapy.