Pediatric Mediastinal Masses
A mediastinal mass is a rare benign (noncancerous) or cancerous growth in the area of the chest between the lungs.
A mediastinal mass is a growth in the mediastinum — the area of the chest between the lungs that contains the breastbone, spine, heart, esophagus and thymus. Mediastinal masses are rare and can be cancerous or benign (noncancerous).
There are three main areas of the mediastinum where a mediastinal mass may be found:
- Anterior (front)
- Posterior (back)
Mediastinal masses are most often found in the posterior (back) mediastinum. Even if a mediastinal mass is benign, it must be treated because it could cause serious complications if it grows into other organs, such as the heart, or presses on the spinal cord.
The exact cause of a mediastinal mass depends on where it forms in the mediastinum. The most common causes of mediastinal masses in children include:
- Extramedullary hematopoiesis (a rare form of bone marrow expansion)
- Germ cell tumors
- Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Neuroenteric cyst (a type of spinal cord tumor)
In some cases, children with mediastinal masses have no symptoms, and the mass is discovered by accident when a chest X-ray is needed for another reason. If your child does have symptoms of a mediastinal mass, they may include:
- Chest pain
- Chronic cough or hoarseness
- Coughing up blood
- Night sweats
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Unexplained weight loss
- Wheezing or stridor (high-pitched breathing)