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Lung cancer symptoms: Yellowing of the whites of the eyes can signal the deadly disease

Lung cancer symptoms can be mistaken for less serious health conditions, but being one of the most common and serious types of cancer it’s important to recognise all the signs as soon as possible.

One of the most common signs of the disease is a cough, but this can be a sign of asthma, which is considered less serious.

Another sign to look out for is evident in the eyes and linked to the condition jaundice.

Jaundice causes yellowing of the skin but also the whites of the eyes. This can occur when lung cancer spreads to the liver.

Macmillan explains that jaundice can occur if your bile duct becomes blocked by the cancer.

It explains: “The bile duct drains bile from the liver and gall bladder into the bowel.

“If this happens, bile builds up in the liver and flows back into the blood. It makes the skin turn yellow and feel itchy.

“Your doctor may prescribe medicines to help relieve the itching.

“Depending on where the blockage is, the jaundice can sometimes be relieved by putting a narrow tube (stent) into the bile duct to keep it open.

“This allows the bile to flow normally into the small intestine.”

Other symptoms of lung cancer to watch out for include:

  • A chest infection that doesn’t get better, or repeated chest infections
  • Feeling breathes and wheezy for no reason
  • Chest or shoulder pain that doesn’t get better
  • A hoarse voice for three weeks or more
  • Losing weight for no obvious reason
  • Feeling extremely tired
  • The ends of fingers change shape – they may become larger or rounded (known as clubbing)

Another sign people may not recognise as being linked to lung cancer is swelling in the face.

Swelling in the face can be a result of a superior vena cava obstruction. 

The superior vena cava is a large vein in the chest which carries blood from the upper half of the body into the heart.

A superior vena cava obstruction happens when something blocks this blood flow, explains Macmillan.

The British charity adds on its website: “Superior vena cava obstruction is usually caused by lung cancer near to this vein. The cancer may be pressing on the vein or it may have spread to the lymph nodes nearby, causing them to swell.

“It can also be caused by a blood clot blocking the vein. This can happen if you’re having treatment through a central line.”

How do you treat superior vena cava?

Treatment may vary – a small tube can be put in the vein to keep it open, or radiotherapy or chemotherapy are also options.

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