Deep Vein Thrombosis & Cancer

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
How is a blood disorder that may cause death related to cancer? In this lesson you're going to learn how two very dangerous conditions are linked together.

The Breakdown of the Body

You car can break down for many reasons, right? A nail may pop a tire. The transmission may give. Maybe you put the wrong fuel into the tank. You get the picture.

Your body can also break down for many reasons. Actually, the specific breakdown itself may have many reasons. For example, you might have difficulty breathing, but that could be due to a problem in your lungs, in your heart, in your throat, or maybe just the air around you.

This lesson is going to go into how one specific problem is linked with one specific cause of that problem. It's the relationship between deep vein thrombosis and cancer.

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Before I even describe how the two are linked I must ensure you know what deep vein thrombosis and cancer are. Let's start with deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) refers to a condition where a blood clot, thrombus, develops in a deep vein inside of your body. This deep vein can be anywhere but is most commonly associated with the legs.

A deep vein in the leg affected by a thrombus (blood clot)

The very general reasons for the development of such a blood clot involves some sort of injury to the vein itself, not enough mobility of the blood within the vein, or too much hypercoagulability (stickiness) of the blood. The biggest danger with DVT lies in a complication called pulmonary embolism (PE), where a piece of the thrombus (called an embolus) travels to the lungs and may kill a person.

What is Cancer?

Now for cancer.

Cancer is very general term that refers to one of scores of different diseases that involves the mutation of one or more normal cells of the body into an abnormal cell and the simultaneous arrest or malfunction of the body's ability to prevent this cell from multiplying like crazy and spreading around the body. Cancer is sometimes called malignant neoplasia or, if the cancer involves a growth, a malignant tumor. Neoplasia is a term that literally implies the new (neo-) formation or development of a cell or tissue substance (-plasia).

Do not get cancer confused with benign neoplasia or a benign tumor. These are neoplastic processes but they do not involve the spread of the neoplastic cells around the body, which is a hallmark limited to malignant processes (cancer).

How are Cancer & DVT Linked?

Ok. Now you know the very basics of DVT and cancer. So, how are these two linked? Can cancer cause DVT? The straight answer is: yes. But why? Well, there is no straight answer here, sorry.

We still don't know the entire story here. but let me sum up what scientists believe. Remember how I said one of the very basic reasons for why DVT occurs is hypercoagulability, or the stickiness of blood? If blood becomes hypercoagulable, that means it starts to mush together into a hard clot instead of staying a liquid. Well, we believe that some cancer cells release chemicals into the body that actually trigger the blood to clot. One chemical implicated in this is called tissue factor (TF). Think of it like adding flour to water. That flour makes the water clumpy. Well, adding tissue factor to the body will make the blood clumpy.

Another very general thing I told you that may lead to DVT is injury to the blood vessel itself. The injury can occur for many reasons, including from surgery on or near the deep vein. But that's not the only type of injury that may occur. When it comes to cancer, the cancer cells themselves may physically compress, crush, or even tear some blood vessels as they grow around or near it. That kind of tissue damage may activate the clotting cascade and cause a thrombus to form in the vein.

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