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Mediastinal Masses

The mediastinum is the area of the chest between the lungs that houses the heart, windpipe, esophagus, and thymus gland. Both non-cancerous (b)enign and cancerous (malignant) masses can develop in the mediastinum. These masses may be tumors or cysts, and they can occur in all three areas of the mediastinum: the anterior (front), middle, and posterior (b)ack.

Symptoms of Mediastinal Masses

For many people, mediastinal masses cause no symptoms and are incidentally discovered during diagnostic imaging for another problem. About half of all people with mediastinal masses experience symptoms, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever, chills, or night sweats
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness.


At Norton Thoracic Institute (NTI), your doctor will conduct a thorough medical history and physical exam to assess your condition. In addition, you may undergo one or more of the following tests:

  • A chest x-ray
  • A CT or MRI scan of your chest
  • A needle biopsy
  • A mediastinoscopy with biopsy, a procedure in which a lighted endoscope is inserted into the mediastinum and tissue is taken for examination under the microscope.


The medical team at NTI will design a treatment plan specific to you and your diagnosis. Such treatment plans vary depending on the type of mass, its location, its cause, and whether it is benign or malignant. Most masses are treated with drugs or surgery. Benign masses are often left alone and are simply monitored to ensure that they do not grow too large or become cancerous. Treatment for malignant masses may include:

  • Surgery to remove as much of the mass as possible
  • Chemotherapy, the use of oral or IV drugs to kill cancer
  • Radiation therapy, the use of high-energy rays to destroy cancer.

Learn About Mediastinal Masses Services at Norton Thoracic Institute

To learn more about our services, call (602) 406-4000.