In the United Kingdom, approximately 4,000 of cancer-related deaths per year are caused by blood clots. The UK's All-Party Parliamentary Thrombosis Group (APPTG) reported that 6 percent of cancer patients who died in the last three years had venous thromboembolism (VTE) or blood clots as a cause of death.
Researchers said some of the VTE-related deaths were preventable. Unfortunately, many hospitals fail in warning patients of the chemotherapy risks which include blood clotting. VTE risk is seven times higher in cancer patients compared to patients without cancer and it is aggravated by both the illness and the treatments patients undergo. The APPTG study found that several hospitals were unable to warn patients of the dangers.
"It is a tragedy that in today's NHS (National Health Service) a patient can beat their cancer, only to then die of a clot. We hope that by raising awareness of this overlooked issue, we can drive up patient safety and provide better outcomes for patients," said Member of Parliament Andrew Gwynne, APPTG chairman.
In the APPTG report, researchers found that less than half of the NHS Trusts provide cancer patients with written and verbal warnings about VTE during chemotherapy. These information include VTE symptoms and emergency actions that patients need to do upon suspicion of Pulmonary Embolism and Deep Vein Thrombosis. Moreover, only 41 percent of NHS Trusts have a way of assessing and treating VTE in chemotherapy patients.
VTE is prevalent among cancer patients because of relatively less physical activity. During chemotherapy, the process of killing cancer cells leads to the increase of developing 'sticky' blood.
AntiCoagulation Europe is a UK-based charity that provides information and support for patients undergoing anticoagulation and antiplatelet therapies. Their chief executive and co-founder Eve Knight added that cancer patients are not fully aware of their high risk of developing VTE compared to people who don't have cancer.
"It is vital that we raise awareness of this and the importance of staying on the medication to treat the blood clot for at least six months in order to prevent unnecessary deaths," said Knight.
Chemotherapy and cancer patients can also lower their chances of developing VTE by talking short walks and moving around the house as much as they can. Simple stretches at home done in intervals can also help, along with drinking plenty of water.