The area between the chest and the lungs is known as the mediastinum within it there is the heart, windpipe, esophagus, blood vessels, nerves, and lymph nodes.

The nodes located in the mediastinum are very close to the abdominal nodes, which increase the rate cancers in that area can spread, especially from the stomach and esophagus.

The procedure, where a tube is inserted in the chest to look for swelling of the nodes and tumors, is known as a mediastinoscopy (What is a Mediastinoscopy –

Getting To Know The Mediastinum

The mediastinum isn’t something most people are familiar with until there is some health problem that affects it. The area between the two pleural sacs is known as the mediastinum. It separated in the following areas:

  • Superior – superior aperture of thorax (thoracic inlet)
  • Inferior – diaphragm
  • Anterior – sternum, manubrium and costal cartilages
  • Posterior – bodies of thoracic vertebrae
  • Lateral – mediastinal pleura

The area has loose connective tissue, nerves, blood, lymphatic vessels, and fat that allow for movement and changes in volume of the organs that are located in the chest. The lymph nodes located in this area are known as the mediastinal.

Lymph Nodes in the Mediastinum and Cancer

The lymph nodes in the mediastinum will not be noticeable when they swell. Cancers can spread quickly through these nodes because of the location of adjoining nodes. The medical procedure known as a mediastinoscopy will be able to detect swollen lymph nodes (which can be a sign of cancer) in the mediastinum. During this procedure, a tube is inserted into the chest to look for tumors and swelling of the nodes while the patient is under general anesthesia. The nodes may swell from the following cancers:

  • Stomach
  • Lung
  • Esophagus

The procedure is done as an outpatient procedure for most people. When there are other health problems like a staph infection that patient often will need to spend a longer amount of time in the hospital.

What about Treatment

In 1951, the first radical mediastinal lymphadenectomy was performed. Though it can be used to stage lung cancer, it has not be determined if the procedure’s risks are worth the benefits. In some cases, metastasis may skip the nodes. Some of the risks include increased operative time and possibly death. A lymphadenectomy may have limited accuracy in staging and also not increase the survival rate of the patient. Treatment of cancer has the biggest impact on survival rates.
Stomach, Lung, and Esophagus Cancer

Stomach, Lung, and Esophagus Cancer

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy

The location and stage of the cancer will affect the type of treatment and the length of treatment. If it is determined that it will be beneficial, a mediastinal lymphadenectomy may be part of the treatment plan.


Since these lymph nodes cannot be easily treated it is best to get cancers of the stomach, lungs, and esophagus diagnosed and treated early.