What is a blood clot?
Blood clot or thrombus is a serious condition that needs treatment right away. Cancer patients and those receiving cancer treatment have an increased risk for blood clots. This article specifically refers to blood clots in veins (not arteries).
Normal blood clotting involves specialized blood cells (platelets, and different proteins in the blood), called clotting or coagulation factors. These platelets and coagulation factors clump together to heal broken blood vessels and control bleeding. Coagulation factors that promote bleeding and those that promote clotting must be balanced.
Blood clotting disorders occur when some clotting factors are missing or damaged. This causes clots to form inside the body to block normal blood flow and cause serious problems.
Blood clots can occur in and travel to different body parts (vein, lungs, artery).
How bad is my blot clot?
Mild: Medical intervention not indicated (e.g., superficial thrombosis).
Moderate: Medical intervention indicated.
Severe: Urgent medical intervention indicated (e.g., pulmonary embolism or intra-cardiac thrombus).
How to manage a mild blood clot?
You can reduce the risk by:
- Being active
- Getting back to activity as soon as possible after surgery
- Exercising your legs during long trips
- Quitting smoking
- Losing weight
- Managing other health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
How to manage moderate and severe blood clot?
Call your doctor right away if you notice leg pain or swelling and:
- Sudden coughing, which may bring up blood
- Sharp chest pain or chest tightness
- Pain in your shoulder, arm, back, or jaw
- Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain when you breathe
- Severe light-headedness
- Fast heartbeat
What causes blood clot?
Cancer patients have a higher risk of blood clots and clotting disorders. It may be caused by cancer or cancer treatments.
- Cancers of the lung, kidney, brain, digestive system, female reproductive system (uterine cancer), and blood (leukemia and lymphoma)
- Metastatic cancer that has spread to other parts of the body from where it started
- Cancer treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy).
- Anti-angiogenic drugs that block the formation of new blood vessels (thalidomide and lenalidomide) may also raise the risk of blood clots.
- Treatment with erythropoiesis stimulating agents (epoetin and darbepoetin)
- Long-term use of an intravenous catheter or port
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