Superior Vena Cava Syndrome

    A blue computer artwork image of the male cardiovascular systemSherman Hemsley recently died from a lung cancer complication called superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS).

    But what is it?

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    According to the National Cancer Institute, superior vena cava syndrome is a group of symptoms that occur when the superior vena cava, a major vein that leads to the heart, is partly blocked.

    Your Heart: A Quick 101

    The heart is divided into four parts. The right and left atrium make up the top parts of the heart and the right and left ventricle make up the bottom parts of the heart. The right atrium of the heart receives blood from two major veins: The superior vena cava, which returns blood from the upper body to the heart, and the inferior vena cava, which returns blood from the lower body to the heart.

    Different conditions can slow the flow of blood through the superior vena cava. These include a tumor in the chest, nearby lymph nodes that are swollen (from cancer), or a blood clot in the superior vena cava. The vein may become completely blocked. Sometimes, smaller veins in the area become larger and take over for the superior vena cava if it is blocked, but this takes time.

    Superior Vena Cava Syndrome: What Is It?

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