Lung cancer: Does your face look like this? The lesser-known warning sign of the disease

Lung cancer: Does your face look like this? The lesser-known warning sign of the disease

10/07/2020

Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer. Around 47,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK. There are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer. But a face that appears more swollen can be an indicator.

Lung cancer can cause swelling in the face and neck when a tumour (malignancy) presses on the vein that goes from the head to the heart, said Lungcancer.net

The health site continued: “This symptom is called superior vena cava syndrome or superior vena cava obstruction.

“The superior vena cava is the name of the vein that carries blood from the head and arms to the heart.

“The superior vena cava passes near the upper part of the right lung, as well as near lymph nodes in the chest cavity.

“Tumours in or around the lung or in the lymph nodes may interfere with the functioning of the superior vena cava, blocking the normal flow of blood.”

In a study published in Oxford Academic, facial swelling and somnolence in a patient with cancer was investigated.

The study noted: “A patient suddenly developed bilateral eyelid edema, face swelling and arm edema and gradually became increasingly somnolent with venous distention in the neck and superficial chest wall veins.

“CT now revealed a mass of enlarged hypodense mediastinal lymph nodes compressing the superior vena cava.

“The patient presented with disseminated cancer of unknown primary, a presentation that is not rare, encountered in 4 percent of oncology patients.

“Her most important symptom was pain, until she developed bilateral face swelling, arm edema and somnolence—typical signs of SVC obstruction.

“When not related to indwelling intravascular devices (about a third of the cases), an intrathoracic malignancy (often lung cancer, lymphoma or metastatic cancer) is usually responsible.

“SVC syndrome may not infrequently be the presenting symptom of an undiagnosed tumour.” 

There are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages, said the NHS.

The site continued: “Symptoms of lung cancer develop as the condition progresses.”

The main symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away after two or three weeks
  • A long-standing cough that gets worse
  • Chest infections that keep coming back
  • Coughing up blood
  • An ache or pain when breathing or coughing
  • Persistent breathlessness
  • Persistent tiredness or lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss

How to prevent lung cancer

The health body also advises how best to prevent lung cancer.

Stopping smoking is one of the best ways to prevent lung cancer.

It advises: “However long you have been smoking, it’s always worth quitting. Every year you do not smoke decreases your risk of getting serious illnesses, such as lung cancer. After 10 years of not smoking, your chances of developing lung cancer fall to half that of someone who smokes.”

Eating a balanced diet and regular exercise can also help.

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