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Cancer and Blood Clots: Who Is at Risk and How Do We Treat?

Cancer is a deadly disease that presents a high mortality and morbidity rate. It is a potent risk factor for blood clotting that significantly lowers its survival rate. Looking out for the best cardiovascular specialist near me helps decrease the chances of fatal heart conditions that are caused by cancer.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BLOOD CLOTS?

Blood clotting or coagulation is a normal physiological process that prevents excessive bleeding that is followed by an injury. Coagulation involves three distinct pathways that work together to produce a stable blood clot. When you experience a cut, special blood cells and proteins called platelets and clotting factors rush to the wound. Together, they form a clot that looks like dried blood and is known as a scab. The clot covers the entire injured area and prevents any foreign particles from entering it. Coagulation is an essential mechanism that not only facilitates healing but also prevents infection.

However, there’re times when the same healing process can turn into a life-threatening one. While blood clots are stagnant and dissolve over time, some types are mobile and travel within the bloodstream. These “abnormal” clots or emboli are capable of rendering a variety of disadvantages to the body.  A blood clot can form within a blood vessel and block its normal flow of blood. Such kind of clot is known as a thrombus. A thrombus may also form inside the heart. On the other hand, if a thrombus breaks loose and travels in the bloodstream, it is known as an embolus. The obstruction in the blood vessel by a clot dislodged from the site of origin is known as a thromboembolism.

There are a few types of clots, each of which presents distinct medical complications in the body.

  1. Deep vein thrombosis: Blood clots can occur in any part of the body. DVT is when it occurs in the deep veins of the legs.

The other two types of clots arise from DVT.

A part or all of DVT breaks off, travels in the body, and gets stuck in the heart. Such a condition is known as pulmonary embolism (PE) and is a fatal condition. Together PE and DVT are collectively known as venous thromboembolism (VTE).

  1. Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC): It is a rare, life-threatening complication of some cancers. It causes severe bleeding and clotting simultaneously and requires immediate medical assistance.

CANCER AND BLOOD CLOTS – WHAT’S THE LINK?

The link between cancer and coagulation arises from the type of clot known as DVT. Their relationship is a two-way street, where having one condition increases the chance of getting diagnosed with the other. It is vaguely believed that cancer causes tissue damage and initiates an inflammatory response that triggers coagulation.

HOW DOES CANCER INCREASE THE RISK OF CLOTTING?

Normally, the body’s capable of maintaining balancing when the blood should clot and when it shouldn’t. The balance is significantly altered by cancer and its treatment. While it’s not clear how a cancerous condition facilitates DVT or vice versa, the following findings establish the fact.

Some studies suggest that the genetic changes manifested due to cancer activate the clotting factors which activate coagulation. The tumors that are a clinical representation of cancerous conditions also release chemicals that stimulate clotting.

Venous thromboembolism is a side effect of both cancer itself and its treatment. It is the second leading cause of death in cancer patients. Studies show that medical conditions release substances that thicken the blood and render it sticky. As a result, the blood becomes more susceptible to clot which is accelerate by the ongoing treatment. Furthermore, as chemotherapy causes vessels, inflammation of the blood starts to get clog with tiny bits of cancerous cells. The outcome is exacerbate by therapies like Tamoxifen that facilitate hypercoagulability.

WHAT FACTORS DEEM CANCER PATIENTS SUSCEPTIBLE TO COAGULATION?

In addition, to be biologically capable of stimulating coagulation, there’re other aspects of cancer that contribute the same. For instance, there are certain types of cancer and treatments that increase the chances of triggering clots by multi-folds.

TYPE OF CANCER

Some cancers increase the risk of having blood clots including cancer of the pancreas, stomach, brain, and lungs. In addition, tumors of the uterus, ovaries, kidneys, and myeloma also pose a greater risk. The risk of DVT increases with the onset of leukemia (blood cancer) and lymphoma. Cancers that have spread to other parts of the body (metastatic cancer) are also responsible for triggering clotting.

The link between the type of cancer and its role in causing coagulation has been termed a diagnostic feature by oncologists. Today, it is believe that a clot might be an early sign of cancer. According to some studies, 1 out of 10 people with DVT is diagnose with cancer within the same year. However, other research prove the same risk to be much lower.

THE TREATMENT

Chemotherapy is a crucial treatment strategy for cancers but is known to trigger coagulation in patients. Certain chemo drugs increase the chance of getting blood clots, such as:

  • Darbepoetin
  • Epoetin
  • Lenalidomide
  • Tamoxifen
  • Thalidomide
  • cisplatin
  • L-asparaginase

These drugs damage both the blood vessels and proteins that prevent clotting.

Other non-cancer medications present clotting as their adverse effects, such as some vitamins, minerals, and supplements. However, before commencing any therapy, the physician outweighs the risk from the benefits and keeps a precautionary strategy at bay. Other treatments such as surgery, and hormonal therapy. and catheters also increase blood clot risk.

OTHER FACTORS

Apart from cancer, the following medical factors also contribute to clotting, such as:

past or family history of blood clots on inherited clotting disorder

  • Hospitalization for illness or surgery of pelvis, abdomen, hip, or knee
  • Severe muscular injury or bone fracture
  • Severe physical trauma such as accidents
  • Serious medical conditions such as that cardiovascular or respiratory system or diabetes
  • Immobility due to long-term bed rest

Besides medical conditions, the following are the lifestyle-centric reasons that cause the same:

  • Age (people older than 65 are more susceptible to clotting)
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Sitting or lying for extended periods
  • Birth control pills
  • Obesity

HOW DO YOU LOOK OUT FOR SYMPTOMS?

Following are the signs and symptoms of a clot in the arm or leg swelling

  • Pain or tenderness without any injury
  • Skin is warm to touch
  • Redness or discoloration of the skin

Following are the symptoms of a blood clot in the lungs

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain that worsens with deep breath or cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

Also Read: How to do Kaki Mudra and know its benefits

HOW TO MANAGE BLOOD CLOTS

Physicians figure out blood clots after a patient reports their symptoms or their diagnosis while performing some of the procedures. In the case of cancer, a blood test called the D-Dimer test is use to find clots in the body.

Coagulation management includes:

  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as heparin
  • Inferior vena cava filter to trap clot fragments in the leg to prevent them from entering the heart or lungs
  • Thrombolytics (clot busters) such as tissue plasminogen activators speed the dissolution of clots.
  • Thrombectomy is a type of surgery use to remove clots.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO PREVENT BLOOD CLOTTING IN CANCER?

By signing up for PSVT clinical trials in Texas and being vigilant about precautions, patients can prevent clots along with their physicians.

Bilal Ahmed Siddiqui

Bilal is a competent Digital Marketer and Content Producer in top digital agency who has managed to establish himself as a valuable employee wherever he has set camp. His skills have always played a profitable role in various projects, as he has consistently dedicated himself to learning and improving.

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