New resource on helping to prevent venous thromboembolism a leading cause of cancer-related deaths

7 Sep 2023
New resource on helping to prevent venous thromboembolism a leading cause of cancer-related deaths

Today, the publication of a new supportive care patient guideline focused on preventing and treating cancer-associated blood clots, also known as venous thromboembolism (VTE) was announced.

Research shows that people with cancer are nine times more likely to experience blood clots than those without cancer.

Blood clots are a leading cause of death for people with cancer, second only to the direct effects of the cancer itself.

The book is available to download for free at, or via the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Patient Guides for Cancer app.

The resource synthesises the latest evidence and expert consensus to recommend options for patient care.

It is regularly updated by a multi-disciplinary panel that includes cardiologists, radiologists, surgeons, pharmacists, and other cancer care professionals from centres across the country.

Their recommendations are based on more than 600 peer-reviewed research articles.

This new patient guideline puts NCCN’s medical recommendations into easy-to-understand terms, including images, charts, and suggested questions to ask.

“We don’t talk about blood clots enough in oncology, but we’re getting better,” said Michael B Streiff, MD, FACS, Professor of Medicine, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Centre at Johns Hopkins.

“Not only do tumours put people at risk for blood clots, but cancer treatments can also put people at risk. These patient guidelines will educate patients and caregivers about what we can do to prevent clotting, how to recognise the symptoms, and what treatments are available if they experience pulmonary embolism or deep-vein thrombosis.”

“Cancer is a strong risk factor for developing a blood clot, and thrombosis is the second leading cause of death in patients with cancer. Yet, despite the known link between blood clots and cancer, there is still a lack of awareness about thrombosis risk in patients with cancer,” noted Aviva Schwartz, MA, Director, Content and Education, North American Thrombosis Forum.

“It's critical to address this knowledge gap and encourage open conversations between patients and healthcare providers. These guidelines are an important step forward for patients with cancer and their family members and caregivers.”

According to Dr Streiff, symptoms of blood clots can sometimes be vague or surprising.

He noted that people with cancer should talk to their doctor about any changes in their body, particularly if they experience swelling, redness, deep muscle aches in the legs or arms, shortness of breath, chest pain, back pain, or lightheadedness. 

Risk assessment tools for VTE have advanced in recent years, helping doctors to understand which patients should pro-actively receive medications like anticoagulants (sometimes referred to as blood thinners), and also who should avoid them.

The medications have been evolving to be safer and easier to take.

They are often available in pill form and are less likely to be associated with unwanted bleeding.

Source: National Comprehensive Cancer Network