Deep vein thrombosis: causes, symptoms, and prevention
Thrombosis occurs when blood cells coagulate and form clots-thrombus, which obstruct vessels. When the thrombus is created in a deep vein it is called "deep vein thrombosis". This happens usually in leg veins.
Cancer patients have an increased risk (4% to 20%) to develop thrombosis. This seems to be the second leading cause of death for these patients after cancer. It’s possible that a clot can be an early sign of cancer.
There are several factors that promote thrombus formation, such as cancer itself, chemotherapy drugs, radiotherapy.
Some types of cancers produce substances and other cancers press the vessels promoting the development of blood clots. Brain, liver, kidney, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, stomach and uterus cancer are more likely to cause deep vein thrombosis than others. The risk is also higher with leukemia, lymphoma and metastatic cancer.
Chemotherapy saves lives; however, certain chemotherapy drugs can create a situation that is prime for clotting, by injuring the vascular endothelium (vascular cells) and causing inflammation.
Radiation therapy manages the cancer; however, it can damage the vascular endothelium (vascular cells), causing inflammation, which increases the risk of developing a clot.
Additional risk factors for thrombosis can include: a family history of thrombosis, hormone therapies, surgery, pregnancy, smoking, obesity. Several of these risk factors can be controlled through a healthy lifestyle.
If Deep vein thrombosis is not treated, a clot can break off into the bloodstream and move to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. Some of the symptoms due to the formation of a thrombus in the veins may be:
- Swelling (edema) in the foot, ankle, tibia or in the arm
- Pain, cramps or tenderness, often in the leg
- Redness, irritation in the tibia or arm
- Feeling of heat or weight in the leg
In the case of pulmonary embolism, the symptoms may be:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Intense breathing difficulty, unexplained shortness of breath
- Sharp chest pain, coughing, and dizziness
- Fainting, dizziness
- Hemoptysis (Coughing up blood)
In case you notice any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor about any concerns that you may have. Your doctor has access to your medical record, and can provide personalized care.
A healthy life style can protect us from the risk of thrombosis, such as:
- Get up and walk for a while
- Stretch and move our legs
- Keep moving from one place to another
- Exercise regularly
- Keep a healthy body weight
- Quit smoking if you smoke
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Wear special tight socks called compression stockings that improve blood flow (ask your doctor)
Ask your Doctor’s advice, he/she knows your medical history and can offer personalized healthcare. The doctor will decide to prescribe the appropriate anticoagulation treatment if necessary.