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What is the Connection Between Thrombosis and Cancer?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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Thrombosis and cancer are two of the most serious medical conditions that a person can be diagnosed with. The former ailment is an obstruction in blood flow due to a clot while the latter entails rapid and abnormal cell growth. On the surface, these conditions are seemingly unrelated, but thrombosis is actually a common and dangerous side effect of cancer. Both cancer treatments and cancer types can elevate the risk of a patient developing thrombosis, due mainly to increased inflammatory responses in the body. Some researchers also believe a negative link exists between treatments for thrombosis and cancer effects.

Cancer can lead to a higher risk of developing thrombosis. Some researchers have found that the chance of thrombosis multiples by as much as six times in cancer patients. Cancer-diagnosed individuals may, in fact, account for up to 25 percent of thrombosis cases. More dangerous still, case studies also reveal that thrombosis is one of the main culprits in mortality rates among cancer patients.

Complicating matters further, the effects of cancer often render thrombosis treatments either useless or even life-threatening. Recurrence of the thrombosis condition is common for cancer patients, even with the anti-blood-clotting medications. Bleeding complications are also a major concern for cancer patients using these medications.

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Despite the risks, thrombosis medication remains the best option for combating thrombosis. One type of medication known as heparin prophylaxis is perhaps the safest option for treating this condition in cancer patients, especially post-operative blood clots. A diligent physician can best determine the risks and benefits of treatment options.

The most common link between thrombosis and cancer is the development of deep vein thrombosis or arterial thrombosis in the blood vessels of the limbs. Experts speculate that cancerous growths inflame tissues and produce harmful chemicals — two effects which kick-start the body’s protective blood-clotting response. Both types of thrombosis can create life-threatening complications. If a clot fragment from deep vein thrombosis moves to the lungs, the resulting pulmonary embolism can cause death. Cases of artery-related thrombosis carry their own potentially fatal risks, namely stroke or heart attack.

Effects of thrombosis and cancer present both unique and general symptoms. Swelling, discoloration, or any type of prolonged abnormal sensation in the limbs are the most prevalent indicators. Worsening cases may also be indicated by shortness of breath, tiredness, or chest pain. Thrombosis can even serve as an early symptom of cancer itself. Non-thrombosis-related effects of cancer can include swelling or pain around a tumor mass, tiredness, and a host of tumor-specific symptoms.

Certain factors elevate the risk of a thrombosis and cancer connection. Cancer surgery carries a high risk, as does other aggressive treatment like chemotherapy. More advanced cancers also pose a greater threat for complications. Tumors impacting major organs seem to have elevated thrombosis susceptibility as well.

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