The "subcarinal area" (or SCA) is a wide area that sits behind
the bronchi and esophagus. These lymph nodes which sit in this
particular area are often involved in esophageal cancer or lung
cancer. This diagram shows the different nodes in that
area. This next image might be harder to locate-- Once on this next page (click here), use the scroll
bar on the narrow left navigation panel. Scroll down to Figure 27.
It shows the SCA portion in blue. But remember, the lymph nodes
sit "behind" major structures in the chest. So if you remember that
the main bronchus splits, then the bronchioles look like an upside
down tree...like in the image above... and picture that the
esophagus sits in the center and comes down between the lungs...
the "subcarinal area" is behind all of that, about but a little
more than halfway up from the bottom of your ribs and where your
Interestingly, China has the highest esophageal cancer incidence in the world. However, in the US and elsewhere, esophageal cancer is the 10th most deadly cancer, which often involves the SCA nodes. Experts don't know why Chinese get esophageal cancer at a higher rate, but researchers believe the SCA nodes are crucial in doing accurate staging of the severity for the cancer.
To get a better idea of the area and depth in the body, you need to use your ability to "picture" things in your mind (to imagine it):
If you mentally turn a person's body sideways while the person is standing up, and have them lift their arms above their head, the area would be about halfway (give or take) between the back (posterior) and front (anterior) of the person's breast bone and spinal column. The area is immediately behind the esophagus, bronchi, and lungs. The SC nodes would not be immediately seen when a surgeon opens the chest cavity; the surgeon would need to gently lift and move structures out of the way to feel and be able to resection these lymph nodes.
The subcarinal is a lymph node located on the posteroanterior chest wall. These are commonly involved with cancers by metastases (mets) from cancer in the lungs. The term "posteroanterior" refers to an anatomical location used by imaging technicians and radiologists. As a more basic explanation for the location of the "subcarinal area" (or SCA) is a wide area behind the main bronchus and right / left bronchi and thus, also behind the top of the esophagus. See above for an image.