Lymphatic Drainage Patterns of Thoracic Malignancies

Journal of Bronchology. 12(4):254-266, October 2005. [Link]

Cordera, Fernando MD; Scott, Walter MD


The knowledge of lymphatic drainage patterns is important for adequate staging and treatment of the different malignancies that involve the thorax. Currently, computed tomography is the primary imaging modality used to assess thoracic malignancies. Positron emission tomography, endoscopic ultrasonography, and magnetic resonance imaging are useful adjuncts. The size of lymph nodes may suggest the presence of metastatic disease; however, pathologic confirmation is often required to confirm the diagnosis. Lymphatic drainage of thoracic malignancies varies according to the organ of origin and the location of the tumor within the specific organ. The different lymphatic drainage patterns for lung cancer, mesothelioma, esophageal cancer, and lymphoma are described. Understanding lymphatic drainage according to nodal stations of the different tumors is critical for the appropriate diagnosis, staging, and treatment of patients with thoracic malignancies.