Why Do Cancer Patients Die From Blood Clots
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Cancer patients have a seven times higher risk of complications from blood clot formation. One of those complications is death. Cancer patients have a dramatically increased risk of strokes, heart attacks and dangerous blood clots in the lungs and in the legs . That means some cancer patients die when the normal flow of blood is obstructed by a sticky clot.
If you are a cancer patient you certainly don’t expect to die from a blood clot. You usually expect to die from the cancer itself.
Why Do Some Cancer Patients Form Life-Threatening Blood Clots?
Normal blood is mostly thin and watery and filled with cells that flow about easily without getting stuck together. Blood that is prone to clotting becomes thick and sticky… more like honey than water. This happens as a result of many chemical reactions between cells and tissues due to the presence of cancer itself or as a side effect or complication of cancer treatments.
Cancer Physiology and Tumor Cells Promote Increased Blood Clotting
- Tumor cells produce clotting substances
The physiology of cancer itself is a state in which the blood is more prone to clotformation. That is, increased blood clotting is but one of the many changes that occurs in many cancers. This is often referred to as a state of hypercoagulation or prothrombotic .
Tumor cells interact with our blood cells and the lining of our blood vessels
This can lead to reactions that make the blood sticky and stimulate clotformation .
Does Cancer Cause Blood Clots
Of all the blood clots that are detected, 20 percent of them are detected in people who have cancer, says Jean Connors, MD, medical director of Anticoagulation Management Services at Brigham and Womens Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Symptoms for DVT include cramping and pain in the legs, similar to that of a Charlie horse, or unexplained swelling. Those with pulmonary emboli may experience difficulty breathing, back or chest pain, or coughing. Individuals over the age of 60 are at the highest risk of developing blood clots.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call your doctor for an evaluation.
There is a balance in the body between pro-clotting and anti-clotting activity, says Connors. Cancer skews the balance in terms of pro-clotting, increases inflammation, and compresses blood vessels, all risk factors for developing clots.
Treatment for cancer or blood disorders can also affect the balance of pro- and anti-clotting factors, and increased bed rest during treatment may enhance a patients risk of clotting.
All patients with blood clots are treated with a full dose of anti-coagulation therapy, but, according to Connors, the length of treatment may increase significantly for those who also have cancer.
Why Blood Clotting Matters
It’s probably something you don’t think about every day, but your blood’s ability to clot is important. If it didn’t, every scrape and cut you got would never stop bleeding. But trouble starts when clots develop where you don’t want them.
That’s what a DVT is: a clot deep in your veins, usually in your legs. DVT can make the area nearby painful, warm, and swollen. But the real risk is if the clot breaks off into your bloodstream and travels to a different part of your body. If it moves to your lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism, and itâs a life-threatening emergency.
Most of the time, your body does a good job of balancing when blood should clot and when it shouldn’t. But cancer — and its treatment — can mess up that balance.
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When To See A Healthcare Provider
If you notice any of the symptoms above, see your healthcare provider right away. Many of the symptoms of early pancreatic cancer have other possible causes, but several of them are very important to diagnose as well. Symptoms are our body’s way of telling us that something isn’t right. It’s important to have an explanation, and if you don’t, ask again. If you aren’t getting answers, consider getting a second opinion.
Pancreatic Cancer Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.
Some people have hesitated to see a healthcare provider with possible pancreatic cancer symptoms due to the reputation of the disease. It’s true that, when found, many of these cancers are too far advanced to be removed with surgery, but there are still treatment options available. In addition, diagnosing these cancers as early as possible allows people and their practitioner to prevent some of the complications of the disease, and in doing so, improve quality of life even when a cancer is present.
Loss Of Appetite And Weight Loss
Pancreatic cancer can cause problems with eating and digestion. If your pancreas is not working properly, you may not be able to digest fats and proteins. You may have diarrhoea and your stool may be pale. This means you are not absorbing nutrients from food properly and you may lose weight. Your doctor may prescribe enzyme replacement tablets to help you to digest food.
They will also give you advice on managing diarrhoea. Try to maintain your weight by adding extra calories to your food where you can. This will give you more energy.If your appetite is not good, medicines such as steroids may help improve it. You may be referred to a dietitian at your hospital. They can advise you on the best foods for you and on food supplements that may help. If you are at home, your GP can arrange for you to see a dietitian.
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Weight Loss And Wasting
Weight loss is a common symptom of cancer. When the pancreas is infected, people quite often lose their appetites, leading to weight loss.
This unexpected weight loss may be alarming and can lead to wasting, where muscle tissue is also adversely affected.
Other common forms of cancer can also cause weight loss:
Patients also experience weight loss from pancreatic cancer treatment itself. Lacking an appetite and unintended weight loss are not uncommon side effects of these treatments.
Adult Onset Diabetes
Another symptom that can be an early sign of pancreatic cancer is adult-onset diabetes. The pancreas produces insulin, and pancreatic cancer can make the body resistant to insulin, manifesting in adult-onset diabetes. Another warning sign is worsening diabetes in those over the age of 55. However, it is important to remember that most people who develop diabetes do not develop pancreatic cancer.
Research On Clots Could Make Pancreatic Cancer More Treatable
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Youre experiencing jaundice, abdominal pain or constipation. And by then, you may be too late. Pancreatic cancer symptoms often arrive after the cancer has already spread, making the disease one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the U.S.
However, a team of researchers believes that targeting how blood clots form and are naturally cleared could make the cancer more treatable.
The team which includes researchers from Purdue University, the Cincinnati Childrens Hospital, the Indiana University School of Medicine and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill is studying the relationship between clots and pancreatic tumors in both animal and human tissue samples through the support of a $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
What the team finds could lead to improved therapies for patients suffering from pancreatic tumors.
“Pancreatic cancer promotes blood clot formation, and then these clots make the cancer develop faster, which prevents drugs from controlling tumor growth,” said Bumsoo Han, professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University and program leader of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research.
“Our idea is to study this process by use of engineered tumor models mimicking the pancreatic duct,” he said.
A patent has been issued for the microfluidic device technology.
Writer: Kayla Wiles, 765-494-2432,
Bumsoo Han, 765-494-5626,
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Chronic Pancreatitis And Hereditary Pancreatitis
Although it’s a very rare condition, if you have hereditary pancreatitis, your risk of developing pancreatic cancer is 50 times greater than the rest of the population.
Risk Factors For Vte In Pancreatic Cancer
In cancer patients, VTE is a multifactorial event involving tumour-related factors, treatment-related factors and patient-related factors. Focusing on pancreatic cancer, the California Cancer Registry study reported the results of a multivariate analysis of potential risk factors associated with VTE within 1 year of cancer diagnosis in 6712 patients. Patients with metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis had a 3.3-fold higher risk of VTE than patients with localised disease. Notably, about 70 and 90% of patients died within 1 and 2 years of cancer diagnosis, respectively. Moreover, according to the Danish Registry, the incidence of VTE was highest in the first year following cancer diagnosis per 1000 person-years) declining to 24.4 per 1000 person-years during the 2nd year, possibly due to more therapeutic interventions, hospitalisations and more extensive disease during this time.
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If You Have Cancer: Blood Clot Prevention And Treatment
Talk to your doctor about your risk of DVT and how to lower it. The best approach depends on things like the type of cancer you have, the treatment you need, and whether you’re in the hospital or at home.
- If your risk is high, your doctor may recommend that you:
- Take medications called anticoagulants or blood thinners
- Get moving as soon as possible after surgery
- Wear special tight socks called compression stockings that improve blood flow
- Use a cuff that automatically squeezes your legs to keep blood moving — a device called an intermittent pneumatic compression
If you do get DVT, your doctor will act quickly. You’ll probably get treatment with a blood thinner. You may need to use this medicine for many months or until after the cancer is gone.
Positron Emission Tomography Scan
A positron emission tomography scan can help to show where the cancer is and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
Before the scan, you’ll be given an injection of a very small amount of a radioactive medication, known as a tracer. The amount of radiation is very small and no more than you would receive from a normal X-ray.
The most common tracer used is a radioactive form of glucose . You’ll then rest for about an hour to allow the tracer to travel to areas in your body where glucose is used for energy.
The scan itself can take up to an hour and produces an image of the tracer in your body. The tracer shows up cancers because they use glucose in a different way to normal tissue.
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/5blood Clot In The Leg Could Be A Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is the formation of cancerous cells in the pancreas, an organ in the abdominal region in the lower part of the stomach, that releases enzymes good for digestion and produces hormones that help manage blood sugar.
According to the American Cancer Society , certain cancers can increase your risk of getting blood clots. Pancreatic cancer in general has the tendency to thicken the blood of the patient, turning it into a hyper-coagulative state. This is why a blood clot in the leg is sometimes the first sign of pancreatic cancer, as per the health body.
The condition is also known as deep vein thrombosis.
/5other Symptoms Associated With Pancreatic Cancer
Apart from blood clot formation in the body, pancreatic cancer can cause other symptoms to appear.
Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the eyes and skin, is most common with pancreatic cancer, says the Cancer Society. It can lead to symptoms such as dark urine, light-colored greasy stool and itchy skin.
One may experience nausea and vomiting too, while others suffer from unintended weight loss and poor appetite.
Although rare, pancreatic cancer can also cause blood sugar levels to spike, leading to diabetes. Signs include thirst and frequent urination.
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What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Pancreatic Cancer
Risk factors are broad and fairly generic. Age is the primary risk factor. Younger patients that develop pancreatic cancer may have a family history or have a lifestyle risk such as obesity and smoking. Knowing the first signs and symptoms can help improve the chances of survival for you or a loved one.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan
A magnetic resonance imaging scan also produces an image of the inside of your body, but it uses strong magnetic and radio waves instead of X-rays.
MRI scans are carried out in a tube-shaped MRI scanner. It’s a noisy procedure that can feel claustrophobic. It also takes longer than other types of scans.
Like a CT scan, an MRI scan allows your doctor to check for signs of cancer in other parts of the body.
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Common Symptoms Of A Blood Clot In A Vein
If you get any of these symptoms, tell your doctor or medical team straight away, or go to A& E. But be aware that blood clots do not always cause symptoms.
Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis include:
- pain, swelling or tenderness in one of your arms or legs often in the lower leg
- warm skin in the affected area
- a heavy ache in the affected area
- your skin may look red or a different colour to normal in the affected area.
Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:
- shortness of breath, which can start suddenly or gradually
- sudden pain in your chest
- coughing usually a dry cough but can include coughing up blood
- extreme tiredness
- feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or fainting.
What If Im Having Radiotherapy
If you are having radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer, you will not normally get medicine or surgical stockings to reduce the risk of clots. Radiotherapy treatment doesnt increase the risk of getting a blood clot.
Read more about things that can reduce your risk of a blood clot. If you have any symptoms that might be a sign of a blood clot, tell your GP or medical team straight away, or go to A& E.
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Abdominal Blood Clots Found To Be Indicators Of Liver Pancreatic Cancer
When it comes to cancer diagnosis, early detection is essential to stopping a tumor from spreading. Doctors will look for any sign that might indicate the disease in order to find it as quickly as possible and start treatment. In the past, researchers have known that certain types of blood clots, especially clots in the leg known as deep-vein thrombosis and clots in the lung called pulmonary embolisms increase a patients risk of a cancer diagnosis by three to four times within a year after finding the clot.
Researchers from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark believe the presence of abdominal blood clots may also lead to a cancer diagnosis, and have made it the topic of their new study. They also believe that blood clots indicate poorer chances of survival in patients with already diagnosed cases of liver and pancreatic cancer. Their findings were published in the journal Blood.
There are several reasons doctors will look for cancer when blood clots are present. For one, cancers presence usually allows blood to clot more easily. Tumor growth may also cause blood clots, as an expanding tumor can restrict blood flow through veins. Surgery and inflammation due to cancer, or tumor growth in general, may damage blood vessels, which can also cause clotting.
Source: Søgaard K, et al. Blood. 2015.
Abdominal Or Back Pain
Another symptom to be on the lookout for is pain in the abdomen or back. This type of discomfort is more likely to occur when the cancer develops in the body or tail area of the pancreas.
If a tumor is in the body or tail of the pancreas, symptoms may appear much later, Dr. Lenz says. This means the tumor may grow large, before you feel pain or discomfort in your abdomen or back.
He recommends getting a checkup if you experience any unexplained abdominal pain lasting for more than one to two weeks.
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Unexplained Weight Loss And Change In Eating Patterns
If you experience a loss of appetite or feel full after eating very little, this also may be a sign of pancreatic cancer. The pancreas is nestled right near the small intestine near the first part of the small intestine, and tumors can cause food to back up or not get through to the small intestine as quickly, says Dr. Reiss-Binder.
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Early Warning Signs And Symptoms
When symptoms of a pancreatic tumor first appear, they most commonly include jaundice, or a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, which is caused by an excess of bilirubina dark, yellow-brown substance made by the liver. Sudden weight loss is also a common early warning sign of pancreatic cancer. Other symptoms of cancer of the pancreas include:
- Dark-colored urine
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