Lung cancer: Signs and symptoms to look out for
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People with advanced cancer may notice a swelling on the face or neck. According to Cancer Research UK, this is called superior vena cava obstruction (SVCO). As Macmillan UK explained, the superior vena cava (SVC) is a big vein in the middle of the chest. It carries blood from the upper body to the heart. If cancer presses on the SVC, it may block the flow of blood along this vein. The charity said: “SVCO is usually caused by a lung cancer near this vein and less commonly other types of cancer.”
According to Macmillan UK, SVCO requires immediate medical attention. The symptoms are alleviated with oxygen and different drugs, said the charity.
It added: “You may be given steroids to reduce swelling. Treatment will depend on your situation.
“Doctors may use radiotherapy to shrink the cancer or give you chemotherapy. Or they may put a small tube (stent) into the vein to keep it open.”
As Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation (RCLCF) explains, many people will think a swollen face is the sign of an allergic reaction.
“However, swelling of the face can be caused by a superior vena cava obstruction, which is usually caused by lung cancer,” explains the health body.
The superior vena cava is a large vein in the chest – it carries blood from the upper half of the body into the heart.
According to RCLCF, superior vena cava obstruction occurs when something stops the blood flowing.
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Other symptoms of SVCO may include:
A feeling of fullness in the face when bending over
Swelling in the hands, and veins on a person’s chest
Changes in a person’s eyesight.
How to respond to symptoms
According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you have symptoms of lung cancer, such as breathlessness or a persistent cough.
As the health body explains, the GP will ask about your general health and your symptoms.
“They may examine you and ask you to breathe into a device called a spirometer, which measures how much air you breathe in and out,” it says.
Who’s at risk?
There are some factors that can increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
Having any of these risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get cancer, however.
Smoking tobacco is the biggest cause of lung cancer in the UK – around seven out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking, reports Cancer Research UK.
If you are struggling to quit smoking, you call the NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044, open Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm and Saturday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm.
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