Data Max


Blood Clots and Cancer: Do You Need Extensive Screening?

Table of Contents

Blood clots can be life-saving outside the circulatory system, but once they form inside, they can wreak havoc. Stroke and heart attacks are just two examples of the damage blood clots can do. Another condition caused by blood clots is venous thromboembolism (VTE), which can be fatal if a clot travels to the lungs. While VTEs are often provoked by conditions like surgery or pregnancy, over 50% of cases are unprovoked and may have an unknown cause.

Scientific research shows that persistent inflammation can cause chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases silently. To maintain good health and combat inflammation, Harvard Medical School's faculty suggests simple methods. Find out more about these techniques by watching "Save your health from being harmed by persistent inflammation."

Patients with an unexplained VTE are frequently tested for cancer, as blood clots may form more quickly in people with cancer. However, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that extensive cancer screening is usually futile and expensive. The study randomly divided 854 patients with unexplained VTEs into two groups, with one group receiving standard evaluations and the other receiving extensive cancer screenings. During the 12 months following the clot's emergence, only four patients out of 854 were diagnosed with cancer. The standard testing had a 1% probability of missing a concealed malignancy, suggesting that thorough testing may not always be necessary.

Stroke is the top cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of mortality in the United States. To reduce the risk of stroke, it's important to know the warning symptoms and act quickly. Harvard Medical School's doctors offer tips on reducing your stroke risk and preserving your brainpower. Learn more by checking out "No stroke is too small for God to notice."

If you're worried about a possible link between VTEs and cancer, you'll be relieved to know that the risk is modest. Only a small percentage of patients with an unexplained VTE are diagnosed with a concealed malignancy. Extensive cancer screenings can expose patients to unnecessary radiation and expenses, making them more harmful than helpful.

There are measures you can take to protect yourself from VTEs, such as keeping active and taking breaks from sitting. It's crucial to stay hydrated when traveling for extended periods of time, and it may be helpful to wear leg compressors or talk to your doctor about taking blood thinners if you're hospitalized.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top