Cancer treatments come with many potential side effects, including blood clots. However, chemo will not cause varicose veins to form.
A cancer diagnosis is devastating. Many cancer patients can recover and live healthy lives with treatment, but it’s no secret that chemotherapy and other cancer therapies often come with uncomfortable side effects. Although chemotherapy will not cause varicose veins, it does raise the risk of blood clots and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Cancer patients with varicose veins should be aware of the increased risk of blood clots as they undergo treatment.
How chemotherapy can cause blood clots
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blood clots affect about 900,000 people in the U.S. each year. One in five clots is related to cancer and cancer treatments.
Certain cancers can increase the risk of blood clots because the disease damages tissues, setting off the body’s clotting mechanism. When the body senses a trauma, it launches proteins to form clots to stop the bleeding and heal the injury. When the injury heals, the clots resolve. But cancer interferes with the normal clotting process, causing the body to produce too many clots. Cancer tumors can also accelerate clotting activity.
Chemotherapy further hinders the body’s natural clotting process. While beneficial in treating the disease, chemo drugs may decrease the level of blood-clotting proteins in the blood. In addition, chemotherapy medications may damage the veins and lead to clots.
An extended hospital stay following cancer surgery also raises the risk of blood clots. When you’re inactive for a prolonged period, such as on bedrest or physically unable to maintain an active lifestyle during the recovery process, your blood cells clump together, raising the risk of a clot developing.
Look out for symptoms of a blood clot. These may include a hard lump on the leg, reddish-colored skin, pain, cramping, and skin that feels warm to the touch. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately, who can administer blood thinners or clot-busting medications. Immediate medical intervention is essential. If the clot breaks away and lodges in the lung, it could cause a life-threatening pulmonary embolism (PE).
Preventing blood clots
If you are at higher risk for blood clots or have previously developed one, a vein specialist can devise a treatment plan before you receive chemotherapy. They may also prescribe anticoagulants or blood thinners to lower DVT risk.
You can take some at-home measures to prevent a clot, as well. Wearing compression stockings will promote efficient blood flow in the calves and lessen the chance of a clot forming. When possible, elevate your legs above your heart to encourage blood to flow to the chest.
Most importantly, consider getting treatment for your varicose veins before starting chemotherapy. Eliminating the pain and swelling of varicose veins makes you more comfortable, and it will also lessen the risk of blood clots and DVT during your cancer recovery journey. Current varicose vein surgeries are minimally invasive and require minimal downtime. Communicate with your oncologist and vein specialist, who can work together on a treatment plan to free you of varicose veins, blood clots, and cancer.
Take care of your veins today!
Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) operates three locations in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Each office offers a full spectrum of vascular services, including treatment for varicose veins and blood clots.
Two experienced physicians lead our Arizona offices. Jeffrey Alpern, DO, is a board-certified cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon with more than 40 years of medical experience. Nick Morrison, MD, FACS, FACPh, is a board-certified general surgeon in Venous and Lymphatic Medicine. Contact their offices today for a consultation!
3509 S. Mercy Road, Suite 101 Gilbert, AZ 85297
1500 S. Dobson Road, Suite 310 Mesa, AZ 85202
9515 W. Camelback Road, Suite 108 Phoenix, AZ 85037