Superior Vena Cava Syndrome
Superior vena cava syndrome is more commonly known as superior vena cava (or SVC) obstruction. The superior vena cava is the second-largest vein in the human body and moves blood from the upper half of the body to the heart, so superior vena cava syndrome, SVC obstruction, is a very serious condition. Superior vena cava syndrome or obstruction is a fairly rare condition, and when it does occur, it is usually the result of another problem, likely cancer. A tumor in the area of the chest under the breastbone and between the lungs (medical term: the mediastinum) can cause superior vena cava syndrome.
The obstructions caused by superior vena cava syndrome are often the result of certain types of cancer, including breast cancer and spreading (metastatic) lung cancer. Non-cancerous causes include vein inflammation and lung infections that have nothing to do with cancer like tuberculosis (TB).
Treatments for superior vena cava syndrome are geared toward relieving the blockage, and are thus related to the cause of the SVC obstruction. Diuretics and steroids can be used to relieve swelling, but most often chemotherapy and radiation are used to treat superior vena cava syndrome as the usual cause tends to be a tumor that needs to be shrunk or eliminated. In extreme cases, surgeries for tumor removal can relieve the blockage from superior vena cava syndrome, though in those cases the tumor would need to be removed anyway due to the conditions related to the cancerous cells. When cancer results in superior vena cava syndrome it often means that the cancer is spreading and the diagnosis can be very serious. Prompt treatment of other harmful medical conditions is the best course of action for avoiding superior vena cava syndrome.