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Blood clots and cancer

Learn about the link between cancer and deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

It can come as an unpleasant surprise that cancer patients need to be aware of the risks and warning signs of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). After all, the two diseases seem worlds apart. So why does the link exist? We do not know all the reasons but can identify three main factors that impact your likelihood for developing a blood clot (DVT): the type of cancer you are diagnosed with, how it is being treated, and your level of physical activity.

Types of cancer

Certain types of cancer are associated with a higher risk of DVT than other cancer types1. The reason for this is unclear.
Types of cancer

Cancer treatment

While your treatment is vital to fight your cancer, it may also increase your risk of blood clots (DVT)2. Chemotherapy and surgery can damage the walls of your blood vessels affecting the way they function. This can also lead to a blood clot3. When chemotherapy kills cancer cells, certain substances that can cause clotting are released into the blood stream4. Some types of chemotherapy drugs are less likely to promote clotting than others3. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor about this so that you can be informed of any risks associated with the treatment you have been prescribed.


Staying active while you fight cancer might feel like a challenge, but even light activity can be very beneficial. Staying active will help you keep blood moving through your veins so that you are less likely to develop a clot in the first place5– and you do not need to start an extreme fitness regime to get these benefits. Start by going for a brisk walk or playing with the kids. If you are on bed rest, ask your doctor if it is okay to walk around the house a bit. In any case, it’s good to find small, low-impact ways to keep your legs moving and your blood pumping.
Exercises for better blood circulation 


  1. Brown A “Preventing VTE in hospitalized patients with cancer” Am J Health Syst Pharm 2012; 69(6), p. 469-481. 
  2. Horsted, F., West, J., & Grainge, M. J. "Risk of venous thromboembolism in patients with cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis" PloS Med 2012; 9(7), e1001275 
  3. Blann A.D. et al “Arterial and venous thrombosis in cancer patients” Card Res Practice Vol 2011, p. 1-12 
  4. Reitsma, P. H., Versteeg, H. H., & Middeldorp S "Mechanistic view of risk factors for venous thromboembolism." Arterioschlerosis, thrombosis and vascular biology 2012;32(3):563-568
  5. Goldhaber, S., & Fanikos, J, “Prevention of Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism” Circulation 2004; 110: e445-e447.

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