Little known lung cancer warning sign that can appear on your face

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A sign of lung cancer can be found in the face (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A sign of lung cancer can be found in the face (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

People are being warned of swelling in the face that could be a sign of lung cancer.

While this is a less known symptom, swelling can result when a tumour is pressing against the vein that goes from the head to the heart called the superior vena cava. It is a long vein but with thin walls and so they can easily become squashed.

"Most cases of SVCO (superior vena cava obstruction) are caused by lung cancer. The cancer may press directly on the SVC. Or it may spread to the lymph nodes (glands) nearby, which become swollen,” stated MacMillan Cancer Support.

“These are other possible causes: Other cancers affecting the lymph nodes in the chest. These include lymphomas and testicular, breast, bowel or gullet (oesophageal) cancers. A blood clot forming in the vein and blocking the blood flow. This can happen if you have had a (central line) put into the vein – for example, to give you chemotherapy.”

As well as swelling to the face people may also have it in the neck, arms and upper chest where the vein is being pressed. Other symptoms could be breathlessness, headaches, changes to eyesight, visible blue veins on the chest or dizziness.

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Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer. More than 43,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK, states the NHS. And it is particularly important to spot slight changes as often there are few signs in the early stages of the cancer.

The NHS website said: "Lung cancer mainly affects older people. It's rare in people younger than 40. More than 4 out of 10 people diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK are aged 75 and older. Although people who have never smoked can develop lung cancer, smoking is the most common cause (accounting for more than 70 out of 100 cases). This is because smoking involves regularly inhaling a number of different toxic substances."

For smokers giving up the habit is an important way to reduce the chances while research suggests that eating a low-fat, high-fibre diet, including at least five portions a day of fresh fruit and vegetables and plenty of wholegrains, can reduce your risk of lung cancer - as well as other types of cancer and heart disease.

Tim Hanlon

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