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Male patient with a possible mediastinal mass

The term mediastinal mass, or mediastinal tumor, describes a growth located in the space within the chest that’s surrounded by the breastbone, lungs and spine (the mediastinum). The mediastinum contains various organs and other body parts, including:

  • The aorta
  • The esophagus
  • The heart
  • Lymph nodes
  • Nerves
  • The thymus
  • The trachea

Mediastinal masses can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). There are various types of these masses, including lymphomas and thymomas, among many others.

Mediastinal Mass Symptoms

Mediastinal masses can cause symptoms if they exert pressure on the surrounding body parts. These symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Flushing
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Chest pain
  • A feeling of fullness within the chest
  • Coughing (sometimes coughing up blood)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Swelling or tenderness within the lymph nodes
  • Eye issues that affect one side of the face, including eyelid drooping and pupil shrinkage
  • Unexplained weight loss

Although some individuals with mediastinal masses experience symptoms like these, a large percentage (nearly 40%) never experience any symptoms at all. In many of those cases, physicians discover the mediastinal masses when conducting tests for unrelated reasons.

Mediastinal Mass Causes & Risk Factors

Mediastinal masses have a number of potential causes. For example, lymphoma (Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin) can cause masses to form within the mediastinum. Less commonly, masses can develop from rare conditions like extramedullary haematopoiesis.

Mediastinal masses are relatively rare. Although mediastinal masses can develop at any age, they’re most commonly diagnosed in patients between 30 and 50 years old. In a child, the tumor is more likely to be benign (noncancerous) and located at the back of the mediastinum. In an adult, however, the tumor is more likely to be malignant (cancerous) and located in the front of the mediastinum.

Mediastinal Mass Diagnosis

In addition to performing a physical examination, physicians may use the following tests to diagnose a mediastinal mass:

  • Biopsies
  • Blood tests
  •  Endoscopic procedures, including bronchoscopies, esophagoscopies and mediastinoscopies
  • Imaging tests, including computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, ultrasounds and X-rays

Mediastinal Mass Treatment

The methods used to treat mediastinal masses will vary from one patient to another depending on a number of factors, including the type of tumor present and where it’s located within the mediastinum. Potential treatments may include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery

It’s important to note that many benign (noncancerous) mediastinal masses need to be promptly treated, since these tumors can compress the adjacent organs and other bodily structures, leading to serious complications.

Moffitt’s Approach to Mediastinal Mass Diagnosis & Treatment

You can turn to Moffitt Cancer Center for the diagnosis and treatment of mediastinal masses. The specialists in our Thoracic Oncology Program have extensive experience with a wide array of intrathoracic conditions, including mediastinal masses. Our team includes medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons, all of whom work together to ensure our patients receive the best possible care.

At Moffitt, we’ve made it our goal to provide our patients with highly individualized treatment—we recognize that each patient is unique, and we develop customized treatment plans designed to meet each patient’s specific needs. We’re proud to be the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida, which is a testament to our extensive research and cutting-edge cancer treatments.

If you’d like to learn more about the mediastinal mass diagnostic and treatment services available at Moffitt Cancer Center, we invite you to schedule a consultation with us. You can request an appointment by calling us at 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. We look forward to meeting with you and providing you with the information you need.