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Combating Venous Thromboembolism in Cancer

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Venous thromboembolism (VTE), or blood clotting, is a common complication of cancer. In the UK there are around 3,000 deaths a year from cancer associated VTE. It can be fatal if a blood clot breaks away and lodges in the lung.

Now a new major study is being undertaken by the University of Nottingham, UK, to try and prevent some of these deaths.

Researchers believe that VTE may be prevented by using simple drugs in addition to cancer treatments, namely warfarin and heparin.

They will look at databases of information on 100,000 cancer patients between 2001-2009 and compare them with a random sample of 500,000 people without cancer.

Lead researcher and epidemiologist, Dr Matthew Grainge, said: “We know that cancer can trigger clotting in the venous system and cancer treatments like surgery and chemotherapy can increase this risk further. This detailed analysis will show us more precisely when people with cancer are at greatest risk of venous thromboembolism compared with the general population within periods defined by cancer treatment, time since diagnosis and hospitalisation. We will also be comparing occurrence and risks in over 20 different types of cancer.”

Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Joe West, said: “At the moment there is little clear guidance for clinicians on preventative treatment for this dangerous condition which is more prevalent among cancer patients. Epidemiological studies like this are vital in the fight to cut the number of preventable deaths in this group of patients who are already suffering from cancer and enduring the effects of its treatment.”

Source: nottingham.ac.uk press release, November 2010.

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.

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