Although anyone can be afflicted with myasthenia gravis, the most common groups for this disease are women who are in their 20s to 40s and men who are in the 50 to 70 year old range. Myasthenia gravis is a disease that is considered to be autoimmune in nature.
It causes symptoms that will deplete the muscles of their strength with increased activity levels. The muscles will become weak until adequate rest is obtained at which time they will become strengthened once again. This weakening and rebuilding of the muscles is the trademark of this disease. The muscles that are affected can vary depending on the severity of the disease, but most commonly will be the eyes, extremities, the swallowing, chewing and facial muscles.
This muscle weakening is caused by defective antibodies that mistakenly depict certain aspects of your body system as foreign and will result in a destructive effect instead of a protective response that should result in a defense mechanism that is supposed to be fighting bacteria instead. This is thought to be a result of the process of the thymus gland. The thymus gland is the gland responsible to help to produce the antibodies in your system.
The thymus gland lies in beneath the breastbone in the chest. It is part of your lymphatic system. The action of the thymus gland is to contribute lymphocytes, which are your white blood cells and fight infection. Research has noted that approximately 15 percent of all patients that are afflicted with myasthenia gravis have a tumor of their thymus gland that is known as a thymoma. Thymomas are for the most part benign, but there are some that can be cancerous.
Myasthenia gravis and cancer are related in some of the cancers. Due to the uncertainty of this group of cancers,the thymus is generally removed during a thymectomy to help limit the potential risk of cancer development in myasthenia gravis patients. Doing so helps the patients with this disease even if no tumor is noted. If cancer is discovered other alternatives for treatment are radiation and/or hormone therapy.
Although cancer of the thymus is a rare occurrence, it can happen. Thymus cancer can have no symptoms whatsoever, but when symptoms are noted they include chest pain, difficulty in breathing, and/or a cough that does not seem to go away. Because of its accelerated growth pattern and tendency to spread to other parts of the body, thymic cancer is a little more difficult in terms of treatment. Surgery to remove the thymus is highly recommended.
Regular check-ups by your physician especially if you are afflicted with myasthenia gravis are your best possible means of good health. Early detection and prevention of any disease will give you the best outlook when it comes to your health and quality of life.
MayoClinic: Myasthenia Gravis
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and stroke: Myasthenia Gravis Fact Sheet
Autralian Myasthenic Association: What Causes Myasthenia gravis
Journal of Research in Medical Sciences: Myasthenia Gravis as a Presenting Feature in a Patient
American Cancer Society: Myasthenia Gravis and thymoma
MedlinePlus: Thymus Cancer
American Cancer Society: Thymus Cancer