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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mediastinoscopy Q&As

I am going to have surgery for a non-small cell lung cancer but before the operation they say they will do a mediastinoscopy. What is this?

Before going ahead with surgery to remove a lung cancer doctors will normally want to check for any signs of spread of the cancer to the nearby lymph glands in the centre of the chest. This central area, around the lower part of the windpipe, is called the mediastinum and the lymph glands which are found there are the mediastinal lymph nodes. It is very important to know whether these glands contain cancer cells as this will affect the likelihood of an operation being able to remove all the cancer cells, and therefore whether the operation is likely to be able to cure the cancer.

Sometimes scans and x-rays give sufficient information about these glands, but even if the glands are enlarged on a scan they may only be inflamed and may not contain cancer cells. So if your doctors are considering an operation to remove the lung cancer they will usually carry out a mediastinoscopy in order to get more information about the glands.

The test is done under a general anaesthetic and will mean a short stay in hospital.

A small cut is made through the skin at the base of the neck and a tube, like a small telescope, is passed into the chest. The doctor can use this tube to examine the area. He or she will usually take samples of the cells and lymph nodes for examination under a microscope.

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