Rare condition diagnosed during routine exam

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – What started as a blood test to check the particle size of Neal Glassman’s blood cholesterol became far more than he bargained for when follow-up imaging revealed something else.

“They detected a lesion in my chest where they believed to be a pericardial cyst,” Glassman said.

It turned out to be a rare tumor of the thymus gland.

“The thymus gland is a gland that sits just under the breast bone and it’s really active, really does it’s job, in childhood up to about the age of puberty. It’s intimately involved with making antibodies, which are our protection against things in the environment,” said Dr. Dennis Tishko, a thoracic surgeon with Broward Health Medical Center.

Tishko said the gland typically shrinks and dissolves after puberty.

“But in some people, for reasons we don’t understand, that gland can reactivate and problems can happen. There are tumors and that’s what we saw in this gentleman,” he said.

Even if benign, tumors of the thymus gland can pose serious risks.

“You have the heart there, you have the main arteries, the main veins, the nerves that control your breathing, the nerves that control your voice box. You have lymph nodes, you have lung tissue, so it’s a very busy area. Tumors in that area, even if they are benign, can grow and push on those structures,” Tishko said.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, Glassmen went through a surgery to remove the mass in June 2020 and was back to his active lifestyle in a matter of days.

“I was running a week later and that’s a testament to the surgeon and the great care I received there,” he said, speaking of Broward Health.

He will have to go through follow-up scans for the next couple of years to make sure the mass doesn’t return.


About the Authors: