Coping with Superior Vena Cava Syndrome in Childhood Cancer
Superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS) occurs when a person’s superior vena cava is partially blocked or compressed. The superior vena cava is a major vein in a person’s body. It carries blood from the head, neck, upper chest, and arms to the heart. Cancer is usually the main cause of SVCS.
More than 90% of cases of superior vena cava obstruction (SVCO) are caused by cancer – most commonly bronchogenic carcinoma, typically a tumour outside the vessel compressing the vessel wall – but it can, sometimes, have a benign cause.
SVCS is rare in children. However, SVCS in children can be life threatening. If your child has signs of SVCS, it is important to contact their health care team immediately.
A child’s trachea is smaller and softer than an adult’s trachea; this means that it can swell or become constricted quickly, causing breathing problems.
SVCS may develop quickly, completely blocking the airway. When this occurs, a person may need a ventilator to help with breathing until the blockage is treated. More commonly, if the blockage develops slowly, other veins may enlarge to carry extra blood. In these situations, the symptoms may be milder.
Sometimes, people with SVCS may not need treatment until SVCS is diagnosed. Or, they may not need treatment right away. This depends on whether the symptoms are mild, the trachea is not blocked, and blood is flowing well through other veins in the chest. At other times the CVS can be dealt with in various ways.
Read more about the Effects, Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment and more regarding SVCS on our static page, Superior Vena Cava Syndrome in Childhood Cancer