Three things to know about venous thromboembolism and cancer

December 07, 2019     

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) can be a dangerous, potentially deadly medical condition that is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide and the third most common cause of vascular death after heart attack and stroke.i VTE encompasses two serious conditions: deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot in a deep vein for example, in the legs, and pulmonary embolism (PE), a potentially life-threatening condition in which a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the lungs. Despite the potential dangers of this condition, VTE often goes unrecognized or undetected due to low awareness and potential lack of symptoms.

VTE can be particularly challenging for people managing other conditions at the same time. For example, cancer is recognized as an independent and major risk factor for venous thromboembolism.i,ii As medical science continues to increase its understanding of the link between VTE and cancer, here are three important things to know:

Active cancer and certain associated treatments have been recognized as risk factors for VTE.

Cancer and its associated treatments can be extremely challenging on their own. Having cancer can also increase the risk of other diseases or complications, including VTE. In fact, in a retrospective observational study of 2119 patients in an Italian registry, 20% of patients with VTE were cancer patients.iv   

VTE is a known complication of cancer and a signi¬ficant predictor for all-cause mortality.v

Not only does cancer increase risk for VTE, but blood clots are often the actual cause of death for people with cancer – making it even more important to raise awareness of VTE in this population. Efforts to gain greater insights into how these medically complex patients can manage their VTE safely and effectively continue to provide additional information on this population.

There is ongoing innovation in the field.

As a population, patients with cancer often have complex medical needs. Combine this with VTE, and these complexities are magnified. While the link between the two conditions is well-established, ongoing research is being conducted to better understand treatment options for VTE in patients with active cancer.


i Goldhaber SZ, Bounameaux H. Pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. Lancet 2012;379:1835-1846
ii Khorana AA, Francis CW, Culakova E, Kuderer N, Lyman H, et al. Thromboembolism in hospitalized cancer patients. J Clin Oncol. 2006;24:484–90.
iii Sallah S, Wan JY, Nguyen NP. Venous thrombosis in patients with solid tumors: determination of frequency and characteristics. Thromb Haemost. 2002;87:575–9.
iv Davide Imberti, et al. Clinical characteristics and management of cancer-associated acute venous thromboembolism: findings from the MASTER Registry; haematologica | 2008; 93(2)
v Mahajan A, Burnson A, White R, Wun T. The epidemiology of cancer-associated venous thromboembolilsm; an update. Semin Thromb Hemost 2019;45:321-25.

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