What is a Mediastinal Tumor?

Mediastinal Tumor is a pathological condition in which there is a development of a tumor or an enlarged mass in the mediastinal area. The mediastinal area or the mediastinum is referred to the area which is in the middle of the chest between the breastbone and spinal column. This area contains some of the most vital organs of the body like the esophagus, heart and the trachea. The occurrence of such tumors is quite rare. Mediastinal Tumors can occur in the front part of the mediastinal area or the back part of the mediastinal area. Where the tumor develops depends on the age of the individual. It is seen that the tumors that develop in the back part of the mediastinum are seen mostly in children where as tumors that develop in the front part of this area are found more in adults. Tumors found in children in majority of the cases are benign whereas those found in adults can be benign or malignant.

Mediastinal Tumor

What Causes Mediastinal Tumor?

When it comes to the causes of Mediastinal Tumors, they are directly connected to the location of the tumor whether they are in the front of the mediastinum, center of the mediastinum or at the back of the mediastinum. Some of the causes of Mediastinal Tumors are:

Causes of Mediastinal Tumor in Front of Mediastinum: The following are the causes of mediastinal Tumors formed in the front of the mediastinum:

  • Lymphoma which can be Hodgkin's or non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Thymoma which is a form of a tumor formed in the thymus
  • Thyroid mass which normally is benign but can also be malignant

Causes of Mediastinal Tumor in Middle of Mediastinum: These tumors can be caused by the following:

  • Benign growth beginning in the respiratory system
  • Lymph node enlargement
  • Pericardial cyst
  • Thyroid mass
  • Benign tumors in the trachea

Causes of Mediastinal Tumor in Back of Mediastinum: These tumors can be caused by the following:

  • Growths or tumors beginning in the bone marrow and can be due to severe anemia
  • Lymphadenopathy.

What are the Symptoms of Mediastinal Tumor?

Mediastinal Tumors most of the time are asymptomatic and are observed when a chest x-ray is taken for some other medical condition. The symptoms are normally caused due to the tumor exerting pressure on the nearby organs or tissues. Some of the symptoms observed are:

  • Frequent cough
  • Dyspnea
  • Frequent chest pains
  • Fever and chills
  • Night sweats
  • Hemoptysis
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Lymph node swelling
  • Respiratory block
  • Hoarseness of voice.

How is Mediastinal Tumor Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose Mediastinal Tumor the physician may conduct the following tests:

  • Chest X-ray to see if there is any tumor present in the mediastinal region
  • MRI and CT scan: MRI and CT scan of the chest may also be done to look at the presence of any tumor around the mediastinal area
  • Mediastinoscopy: This is a minimally invasive procedure in 3which an incision is made in the mediastinal area and a small piece of tissue is taken and sent for biopsy to check whether the growth is benign or malignant.

How is Mediastinal Tumor Treated?

The specific treatment required for Mediastinal Tumors depend on the location of the tumor and is determined by various tests. It is to be noted that both benign as well as malignant mediastinal tumors need aggressive treatment, as benign mediastinal tumors may exert pressure on the adjoining structures and may impair their function whereas malignant mediastinal tumors may spread to other areas resulting in potentially serious complications. The best treatment for such mediastinal tumors is surgery for removal of the tumor. If the mediastinal tumor is malignant the surgery will be followed by radiation and chemotherapy whereas benign mediastinal tumors will be removed and the patient will be asked to followup regularly to check the status.

What are the Complications for Mediastinal Tumor?

If Mediastinal Tumors are left untreated or not adequately treated then it may pose a serious threat to the life of the patient, as the tumors may invade important organs of the body like the heart or the spinal cord.

What is the Overall Prognosis and Survival Rate of Mediastinal Tumor?

The prognosis of Mediastinal Tumors depends on the location of the tumors and whether they are benign or malignant. In cases where the tumor is malignant the prognosis is guarded and care should be taken to prevent the tumor from invading other organs of the body and complicating things as a result of Mediastinal Tumors, although with appropriate treatment and taking precautions there is about 60% chances of survival rate of about 10 years even for tumors staged III with a recurrence rate of about 10%.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: August 14, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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