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Three Things to Know About Venous Thromboembolism and Cancer

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.1 VTE encompasses two serious conditions: deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot in a deep vein, 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.2,3 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, approximately 20% of patients with active cancer will experience one or more episodes of VTE during their disease.4

VTE is the second leading cause of death in patients with cancer5

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.


1 Goldhaber SZ, Bounameaux H. Pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. Lancet 2012;379:1835-1846

2 Khorana AA, Francis CW, Culakova E, Kuderer N, Lyman H, et al. Thromboembolism in hospitalized cancer patients. J Clin Oncol. 2006;24:484–90.

3 Sallah S, Wan JY, Nguyen NP. Venous thrombosis in patients with solid tumors: determination of frequency and characteristics. Thromb Haemost. 2002;87:575–9.

4 Thrombosis in the setting of cancer Streiff MB, Hematology Am Soc Hematol Educ Program. 2016 Dec 2; 2016(1): 196–205. doi: 10.1182/asheducation-2016.1.196

5 International clinical practice guidelines including guidance for direct oral anticoagulants in the treatment and prophylaxis of venous thromboembolism in patients with cancer. Frage D et al., Lancet Oncol. 2016 Oct;17(10):e452-e466. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(16)30369-2.

VTE can be particularly challenging for people managing other conditions at the same time.