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Figure

The main veins of the head and neck (v. stands for vein). (Note that the clavicle has been removed.)

A lung cancer, enlarged lymph node, or an aortic aneurysm can compress the superior vena cava, interfering with return of blood from the upper body to the heart. This produces pain, shortness of breath, distension of veins draining into the superior vena cava, and swelling of tissues in the face, head, and lower limbs. Restriction of blood flow to the brain may threaten life.

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