It’s a problem that affects A LOT of cancer fighters but we don’t hear a lot about – blood clots. People with cancer are much more likely to have a blood clot (about 20% of cancer fighters!). Welcome to Part 1 of a 2 part series on everything you need to know about blood clots.
What Is a blood clot?
A blood clot is when different cells, that make up your blood, gather and turn to a gel-like consistency (aka clot). It’s a natural process. If you cut yourself, these cells spring into action to prevent excessive bleeding. Unfortunately, sometimes this occurs when we don’t need or want it to – leading to complications.
There are different types of blood clots
A venous thromboembolism (VTE) is used as a general statement to describe different types of blood clots: DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and PE (pulmonary embolism). A DVT most commonly occurs in the leg or the arm (usually just only one side). A PE is a clot that occurs in the lung.
There is one more type of blood clot that is especially important to cancer fighters – a port or PICC associated clot. This is a clot that occurs because of a port or a PICC line inserted into the body. Anytime a foreign object is inserted into your body (e.g. port or PICC), the clotting parts of the blood try to fix because it is seen as something that ‘is not right’ in your body. Unfortunately, this causes problems (more on that in a bit).
How Do I Know if I Have a Blood Clot?
The signs of a blood clot vary depending on the type of clot you might have.
DVT (in either an arm or leg): Discoloration (red or blueish), warm to the touch, swelling
PE: Anxiety, shortness of breath, chest pain, fast heartbeat
During my treatment, I had a port associated clot. The port (inserted into my arm leading into my heart) had a clot running from my bicep to just below my collar bone (sometimes clots can be large). But it was really difficult to identify as a problem. My arm was not red or warm to the touch. It was mildly swollen and I did have discomfort in the area (like a cramping).
What Are the Complications of a Clot?
Blood clots can be very serious. Blood clots are the second most common cause of death in people with cancer (first being cancer itself). That’s scary! This isn’t something to be taken lightly.
What Should I Do if I Think I Have One?
If you think you have a blood clot then go immediately to the emergency room. You need to seek help right away because there are different medications that can help and need to be started right away.
…But more on that in ‘Everything You Need to Know About Blood Clots- Part 2’ (next week)