Mediastinal cancer

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There are a number of cancers that can affect the mediastinum. The mediastinum is the part of the body in the middle of the chest between the lungs, the sternum in front, the spine behind and the diaphragm below. This area includes, among others, part of the heart, esophagus, trachea and thymus. Cancer of the mediastinum is not, therefore, a single entity, since tumors of the thymus or thymoma, germ cell tumors, Hodgkin's lymphoma or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are all retained under this name. Other mediastinal tumors are benign, such as some types of cysts, teratomas or parathyroid adenomas. Also, due to the presence of many lymph nodes in this area, cancer affecting other organs can often affect this area.


Most of the time, cancers of the mediastinum are asymptomatic. Sometimes, in case of an advanced- sized tumor, mediastinal syndrome occurs: it is secondary to the pressure exerted by the tumor on various nearby organs. This may correspond to difficulty breathing, eating disorders, or even chest pain.


Due to the frequent absence of symptoms, mediastinal cancer is often diagnosed during a review conducted for other reasons, such as a chest X-ray or CT scan. Other tests will then be considered, a radio scanner or if it has not already been made, an MRI. Mediastinoscopy allows the visual exploration of the mediastinum and the taking of samples if necessary. As a follow-up, staging, i.e. a set of tests to look for spreading to other sites, will be realized.


Treatment depends on the type of tumor and its location. Thus, in the case of cancer of the thymus (or thymoma), surgery will followed by chemotherapy or radiotherapy. If it is a lymphoma, a doctor will often proceed with chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy. In general, the treatment depends on the overall health of the patient and the results of the staging.