Mediastinal Cancers

What is mediastinal cancer?

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:

  • Esophagus
  • Heart
  • 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.

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
  • Lymphomas
  • Thymomas

Symptoms of mediastinal cancer

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
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fever
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sounding hoarse
  • Stridor (high-pitched breathing sound)
  • Swollen or tender lymph nodes
  • Wheezing

Diagnosis and testing for mediastinal cancer

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.


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.


Chemotherapy is used to fight almost every type of cancer and is part of the comprehensive treatment plan created by our oncologists.

Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery to Remove Benign Mediastinal Tumors

Minimally invasive and robotic surgeries help Main Line Health experts remove benign mediastinal tumors with fewer safety risks than ever.

Surgical Oncology


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