Mediastinal cancers form at the center of your body
A common yoga practice has you bring your hands to your center—the source of all your metaphorical strength. Your center, or the area located in the middle of your chest between your lungs, is called the mediastinum. When cancer cells form tumors in the mediastinum, it is called mediastinal cancer.
Your mediastinum contains many important life functions, including your:
- Large blood vessels
- Thymus gland
- Trachea (windpipe)
Mediastinal tumors are rare and treatable. Main Line Health offers diagnosis and treatment for all types of mediastinal cancers.
Mediastinal cancers may be caught before you have symptoms
There are three parts to the mediastinum: the anterior (front), middle and posterior (back). Most mediastinal cancers in adults are found in the anterior section of the mediastinum. These types of cancers include:
- Germ cell tumors
Many times, there are no symptoms of mediastinal cancers. They are often found when you have an X-ray for another reason and the tumor is noticed. When symptoms do occur, they include:
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Losing weight without trying
- Night sweats
- Shortness of breath
- Sounding hoarse
- Stridor (high-pitched breathing sound)
- Swollen or tender lymph nodes
If you have symptoms of mediastinal cancer, your doctor may order diagnostic tests including:
- Imaging tests – You may have an ultrasound, MRI or CT scan to see if you have a mediastinal tumor.
- Biopsy – A biopsy can be done using either CT-guided needle biopsy or mediastinoscopy with biopsy to remove tissue to confirm if it contains cancer cells.
Treatment options for all types of mediastinal cancers
Your treatment will depend on the type of mediastinal cancer you have and your symptoms.
Treatment may include:
- Chemotherapy – This type of treatment is recommended for germ cell tumors and lymphomas. Chemotherapy may also be used to treat thymic cancers, after surgery.
- Radiation – Some lymphomas may be treated with radiation after chemotherapy. Radiation may also be used to treat thymic cancers, alone or in combination with chemotherapy, following surgery.
- Surgery – Surgery is the first choice of treatment for thymic cancers. Main Line Health offers the latest surgical treatment options for mediastinal cancers, including minimally invasive and robotic thymectomy and minimally invasive and robotic surgery to remove benign (non-cancerous) mediastinal tumors.