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What is mediastinal disease?

Mediastinal disease refers to an unusual group of  tumors that form  in the area called the mediastinum, which separates the lungs in the middle of the thoracic cavity.  About half of mediastinal tumors cause no symptoms and are found on a chest X-ray or scans for another reason. Occasionally, they will cause symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath.

Some of the possibilities for mediastinal tumors include thymic gland tumors, enlarged thyroid glands sitting beneath the chest's bony structure and tumors of the lymphatic system (lymphoma). Other possible reasons for tumors in this area are nerve-related tumors and cysts of the pericardium or lung.


Depending on the size, position and clinical scenario, removal or biopsy of mediastinal tumors may be recommended. In many cases, removal of the mass is the only therapy needed.

This may be done minimally invasively with small incisions and a robot or video camera, or with larger incisions, depending on the size and position of the tumor. In some cases, a biopsy alone to obtain a piece of tissue for diagnosis will be recommended as a first step. Some benign-appearing masses, such as cysts, may be observed over time and left alone unless they enlarge.

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