Mediastinal Cysts and Tumors What are mediastinal masses?

Mediastinal masses comprise several types and affect various organs including the thymus, trachea or esophagus (foregut cysts), pericardium (pericardial cysts) or neural structures (neurogenic tumors). Most of these masses and cysts are benign but do compress adjacent structures and can produce symptoms.

What are the symptoms of mediastinal cysts and tumors?

Almost 50 percent of mediastinal masses cause no symptoms. Symptoms that do occur are due to the tumor putting pressure on–or compressing–nearby structures, such as the spinal cord, the heart, or the heart’s lining (pericardium). Symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Cough, or coughing up blood
  • Fever
  • Hoarseness
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath

In addition to increasing in size, mediastinal masses also have a propensity to get infected.

What are the risk factors for mediastinal cysts and tumors?

In general, these growths are rare. They are usually found in patients ages 30 to 50 years, but can develop at any age.

What tests can I expect?
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan or the chest or CT-guided needle biopsy
  • MRI of the chest
  • Mediastinoscopy with biopsy: A sample of chest tissue is taken to determine if it is cancerous
What are my treatment options?


VATS or Robotic Surgery
Most mediastinal masses and cysts are benign but do compress adjacent structures and produce symptoms. Due to their propensity to enlarge and get infected, surgical excision is often recommended. The Thoracic Surgery Division at Beth Israel has pioneered the use of Video Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) combined with the da Vinci® Robotic Surgical System, to achieve complete endoscopic resection of selected mediastinal cysts and tumors, with excellent outcomes.

For an Appointment Call
Raja Flores
Andrew J. Kaufman, MD
Chief, Department of Thoracic Surgery
Daniel Nicastri
Ram Reddy
Dong-Seok Lee
Henry Tannous
Andrea Wolf

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