The mediastinum is the central part of the chest, with the breastbone in the front the spine in the back and lungs on each side of the chest. It is made up of three parts, the anterior, middle and posterior mediastinum. Mediastinal surgeries are thus any surgery performed in this area which may include diagnostic procedures and surgeries done to remove tumours in this area such as thymomas, lymphomas and germ cell tumours.

Why would surgical intervention for lung cancer be needed?

Mediastinal surgeries would be done for tumours localised in the central chest area. These may affect the oesophagus, lungs, and heart. Depending on the stage, location and size of the tumour, you may be advised by your oncologist to have Dr Scott surgically remove the tumour. Surgery may be done before or after other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy and may be done as an aggressive eradication of cancer or for palliative reasons to reduce the painful symptoms of cancer.

How is this procedure done?

How the surgery will be done will depend on the reason for mediastinal surgery. Surgery done for tumour resection will depend on the type of cancer present but is most often done to remove the entire tumour present. This may be done one of two ways:

  • Sternotomy – is surgical removal of tumours by the division of the breastbone, in order to access the entire chest cavity including the heart, great vessels and lungs. This is done for larger tumours.
  • Thoracotomy – is surgical removal of tumours in which an incision between the ribs is made to allow access to the right or left chest. This surgery is done for the removal of large tumours that are localised to one side or the other.

Depending on the size and access to the tumour, Dr Scott often chooses to perform the surgery using minimally invasive techniques when possible; otherwise, open surgery used instead. Whether or not he was able to remove an entire tumour or not, you may need to receive further cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation to destroy the remaining cancer cells.

What can I expect after surgery?

Waking up from mediastinal surgery, you can expect a chest tube to be placed in your chest to allow the air to fill your lungs and drain any blood or fluid that may build up in the lungs. After surgery, you may feel some pain for a few weeks while you recover. You will be advised how to proceed with recovery and activities for the next few weeks depending on whether surgery was done for treatment or diagnostic purposes.