Cancer Patients at Risk for Serious Blood Clots: Study

Clots may develop within a year of chemo in certain patients, increasing cost of care, analysis shows

FRIDAY, Sept. 30, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Blood clots affect as many as one in five U.S. cancer patients and sharply increase the cost of their care, a new study has found.

Researchers analyzed data from 30,552 cancer patients in the United States and found a large number developed a potentially deadly blood clot called a venous thromboembolism (VTE) within a year of undergoing chemotherapy for certain types of cancers.

One year after treatment, VTE occurred in 21.5 percent of pancreatic cancer patients, 16.7 percent of stomach cancer patients, 14.8 percent of lung cancer patients, 11.9 percent of colorectal cancer patients, 11.4 percent of ovarian cancer patients and 9.9 percent of bladder cancer patients, the investigators found.

It's not fully understood why VTEs can develop during cancer treatment, but contributing factors include chemotherapy side effects, blood-clotting agents released by tumors, and pre-existing health issues such as obesity and anemia, according to researchers led by Dr. Gary H. Lyman, a professor of medicine at Duke Cancer Institute.

The average cost of care for a cancer patient who develops a VTE and requires medication and hospitalization is $110,362, compared with $77,984 for a patient who does not have a VTE.

"Direct medical costs of health care are significantly greater among cancer patients experiencing a VTE and still do not include caregiver expenses, out-of-pocket costs and the intangible costs of pain and suffering," Lyman said in a Duke news release.

The ability to identify patients with the highest risk of developing blood clots could improve preventive use of anti-clotting medicine or blood thinners, Lyman suggested.

The study, which is slated for presentation Monday at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress in Stockholm, was supported by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi.

Experts note that study findings presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Society of Clinical Oncology has more about cancer patients and blood clots.

SOURCE: Duke Medicine, news release, September 2011
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