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What is Thromboembolism?

Thromboembolism is a condition in which a blood clot formed inside a blood vessel breaks free and is carried in the bloodstream to block a blood vessel inside another organ, causing organ damage. The affected organs can be lungs (pulmonary embolism), brain (stroke), gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, or legs.
Two diseases typical to thromboembolism include DVT or deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in a deep vein) and PE (pulmonary embolism). These conditions may develop as a result of complications of cancer-related surgery.

Risk factors of Thromboembolism

Several risk factors for the development of thromboembolism in cancer patients have been identified and include site and stage of cancer, type of cancer, advanced disease, patient comorbidities, specific therapeutic agents, surgery, chemotherapy, and hospitalization.

Symptoms of Thromboembolism

Nearly 50 percent of patients with thromboembolism does not show any symptoms. Also, symptoms of thromboembolic diseases such as DVT may go unnoticed for a while as they are similar to various other health problems. Typical symptoms include swelling, tenderness, change in skin color, and warmth over the affected area. Additional symptoms such as coughing up blood, sharp chest pain, and shortness of breath may be noticed if a blood clot breaks free and travels to the lungs, leading to pulmonary embolism.

Diagnosis of Thromboembolism

As a part of the diagnosis, your doctor will conduct a physical examination. He/she may ask questions related to your overall health and assess your medical history to exclude other causes. Your physician may also order tests specific to DVT such as a Duplex ultrasound, venography, and MRI.

Treatment for Thromboembolism

The aim of the treatment is three-fold and includes:

  • Preventing the clot from getting bigger
  • Preventing the clot from loosening and breakage
  • Reducing the chances of DVT recurrence

Treatment options involve the use of blood-thinning medications such as heparin and warfarin. In severe cases, clot-buster medications such as tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) may be prescribed. Other treatment measures include inserting filters into veins to prevent clots from breaking loose and going to the lungs. Also, compression stockings may be worn for preventing blood from pooling and clotting.

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