Venous Thromboembolism in Malignancy and Malignancy in Venous Thromboembolism
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The activation of coagulation in patients with cancer contributes significantly to morbidity and mortality rates and may play a fundamental role in the host response to growing tumours. Patients with cancer are clearly at high risk for the development of venous thromboembolism (VTE), particularly during chemotherapy and surgery. This situation is aggravated by the use of venous access catheters and possibly growth factors. Data derived from large, randomized, controlled trials have been used to determine the true incidence of this complication of cancer and its treatment. The incidence based on the analyses of these randomized controlled trials varies from 1% for limited stage patients with breast cancer treated with tamoxifen to 60% for patients with any type of cancer who are subjected to orthopaedic surgery and do not receive prophylactic therapy. In view of the morbidity and mortality attributable to VTE in cancer, widespread utilization of prophylactic anticoagulation therapy, which has proven safe and effective in a variety of situations, should be considered. While migratory thrombophlebitis is a clear indicator of an underlying neoplasm, the risk of cancer in patients with the more typical form of VTE has been the subject of intense debate over recent years. Some investigators have suggested that the relative risk of being diagnosed with an occult cancer within 6 months of an episode of VTE (particularly recurrent VTE) could be up to 10-fold. However, the cost-effectiveness of aggressive screening for cancer in patients with VTE has not yet been defined adequately.
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