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The Superior Vena Cava Syndrome is the group of symptoms that result from compression of the large vein (superior vena cava) that transmits blood to the heart. See picture , picture and picture. Lung cancer is the usual cause (go here). A recent review of tratment is here.

svc_anatomy.jpg (15159 bytes) The superior vena cava is a large vein that transmits blood from the upper body back to the heart. The superior vena cava is located in the middle of the chest and is surrounded by rigid structures and lymph nodes. Compression by disease of any of the structures or lymph nodes surrounding the superior vena cava can cause the superior vena cava syndrome. We can think of the superior vena cava syndrome as resulting from back-pressure and leakage from the circulation (veins and lymph drainage) behind the compressed area.

anatomy, X-rays, images , another CT of SVCO, large CT, more images here, here , here and here

typical CT for small cell with SVCO, typical chest X-ray

information from the NCI

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The superior vena cava syndrome is characterized by swelling of the face, neck and/or arms with visible widening (dilation) of the veins of the neck. Patients often have a persistent cough and shortness of breath. Others symptoms can be present including hoarseness, swelling around the eyes, fatigue, chest pain, headaches, and dizziness.

The causes of the superior vena cava syndrome include cancer (malignancies) and non-cancer (benign) conditions. The common forms of cancer that can cause the superior vena cava syndrome are lung cancer, lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes), and cancer that has spread (metastasis) to the chest, more commonly breast and testicular cancer.

The diagnosis of superior vena cava syndrome can be made with the typical findings above. The diagnosis is supported by identifying a cause for the superior vena cava syndrome, typically requiring X-ray imaging or CAT or MRI scanning. The treatment of superior vena cava syndrome is directed toward the exact underlying cause. Therefore, treatment might include radiation treatment, antibiotics, chemotherapy, clot-busting (thrombolytic) drugs, blood thinners (anticoagulation), and balloon angioplasty, and even surgery.