Cancer and DVT Risk : What Patients Need to Know about Cancer and Blood Clots

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Friday, 28 October 2016

A cancer diagnosis comes with its own unique set of challenges. It’s scary and can take a toll on you and those you love. With the stress of coping with a cancer diagnosis and all that entails, you must also be aware of immediate side-effects of cancer and cancer treatments. One such complication is the increased risk of developing life-threatening blood clots such as DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) in the legs. The good news is that there are steps you can take to decrease your blood clot risks. Knowledge is power, so by being aware of cancer and DVT risk, you can take steps to protect yourself.

Cancer And DVT Risk FAQ

If you or someone you love has received a cancer diagnosis, your head is spinning. This is even truer if you’re about to undergo surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation for cancer treatment. The oncologists are likely providing you with a lot of information, and much of it is incredibly important. It can be difficult to keep it all straight, including the unfortunate side effects of cancer and its treatments. Use this cancer and DVT risk FAQ as a guide to help you protect yourself from the increased risk of blood clots and the dangers they impose.

Does Cancer Increase Blood Clot Risks?

A blood clot is a common side effect of cancer and the associated treatments. While researchers are not completely sure why cancer and DVT risk are linked, some suspect that it’s related to tissue damage and inflammation that sets blood clotting in motion. Tumors also release chemicals that trigger clotting.

Jean Connors, MD, the medical director of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said, “Of all the blood clots that are detected, 20 percent of them are detected in people who have cancer.” If you have cancer you are at a higher risk of developing clots.  Also, if you suffer from blood clots it occasionally indicates undiagnosed cancer. Connors reports that 10 percent of people who develop Deep Vein Thrombosis who do not have cancer will be diagnosed with it during their clot assessment or within the following year or two.

It’s clear that while we don’t know exactly why they are linked, there’s a connection between cancer and DVT risk.

How Does Chemotherapy Increase The Risk Of DVT?

Medical professionals don’t have an exact answer as to why chemotherapy treatment increases your risk of DVT, but many physicians and researchers suspect that it could be because the medications diminish your body’s production of the kind of proteins that protect you from clots.

Chemotherapies that treat myeloma put you at a higher risk of developing DVT as do the chemotherapies that treat colon cancer. If your doctor has prescribed a combination of medications, then the risk of a clot rises.

It’s not just chemotherapy, though. Surgical removal of cancer can also increase your risk of developing a blood clot. In fact, most surgeries come with this risk.

Therefore, cancer and DVT risk are linked and the risk only increases as you receive treatment. This is why it’s important to know the signs of a blood clot, reduce your risk, and pay close attention to the physician instructions for post-operative and post-treatment care.

How Can I Reduce My Blood Clot Risks?


If you have cancer and haven’t started your treatments, take care of yourself and your health. Discuss your risks and how to reduce them with your physician.  Following our Better Veins for Life® principles can help:  exercise, maintain a healthy weight, elevate your legs, and wear compression hose.

If cancer surgery is in your future, discuss how you can reduce your risk of post-surgical blood clots with your surgeon. Your surgeons and their staff will work with you after surgery to get up and walk after surgery.  If you can’t walk they may order intermittent compression garments to wear and encourage you to pump your calf muscles to stimulate blood flow. Also, take advantage of adjustable hospital beds and elevate your legs as comfortable.  They may, also, order blood thinners.  Discuss all of your concerns and what you can do to alleviate the risk of blood clots safely during your in-hospital and at-home recovery after surgery.

Chemotherapy can be trickier, as many patients are very ill for several days following a chemotherapy treatment. It’s important to wear compression stockings during your treatment and during days when you’re feeling very ill and in bed. On the days when you’re feeling well enough, go for short walks as is comfortable, elevate your legs, or just remember to pump your calf muscles often. Continue wearing your compression stockings.

These tips aren’t just good for individuals struggling through cancer. Everyone can benefit from these tips for blood clot prevention. So help your loved ones and spread the word.

Can I Receive Blood Clot Treatments During Chemotherapy?

If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, you can and should be treated for blood clots. In most cases, your doctor will place you on a blood thinning medication. With DVT, the blood thinning treatment may begin in the hospital, but new medications can be started as an outpatient. Treatments may last from 6 weeks to the rest of your life depending on your risks.

What Are The Signs Of Blood Clots?

When DVT develops there are often no symptoms.  If symptoms develop, you may notice pain in your leg muscle or calf, leg swelling, tenderness, and/or discoloration. Seek immediate medical care if you notice symptoms and ask, “How do you know I don’t have a DVT.”

Blood clots that form in the leg can break free traveling to the lungs causing a life-threatening condition known as Pulmonary Embolism (PE).  It is crucial to diagnose your blood clots as soon after they form to begin treatment and decrease the risk of a life-threatening PE.

How Vein Specialists Of The South In Middle Georgia Helps Patients With Blood Clots

When it comes to cancer and DVT risk, the important thing is to minimize the risks of blood clots first. This is true of all patients who are on extended bed rest following an injury, long illness or surgery.

If you have unexplained leg pain or heaviness, or you suspect you have a blood clot, contact our team right away for an appointment or go to your nearest ER. You should be assessed with ultrasound to check your veins and look for any blood clots, discuss potential treatment plans and prevention methods.

Over 18,000 Procedures Performed

Dr. Kenneth Harper, founder of Vein Specialists of the South, has evaluated more than 22,000 patients and performed over 18,000 procedures since 2000. Dr. Harper is a leader in comprehensive vein care, having focused on diagnosis and treatments for varicose veins, spider veins, venous ulcers, and leg swelling since 1997.


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