Warning signs for DVT and PE

Discovering DVT early can help you take action fast, and get back to focusing on what matters

How obvious are the signs of DVT?

The signs of DVT are not always that obvious. Venous thromboembolism (or VTE) is the term given to DVT and/or PE. VTE affects up to 1 in 5 cancer patients, but with the focus rightfully on treating cancer, DVT rarely comes up in oncologist appointments. That means many cancer patients are unaware they are at high risk of DVT to begin with and they are not looking for signs. Or they mistake signs of DVT for side effects of their cancer treatment. Furthermore, different people experience different symptoms, regardless of whether they are cancer patients. Some people experience noticeable pain and discomfort while some don’t feel a thing. 

What are the signs of DVT?

DVT can become more serious or life threatening if it travels to the lungs. (See below). That’s why it’s extremely important to treat it early. DVT is most likely to occur in the first three months of a cancer diagnosis.  

Recognising and reacting to possible symptoms fast is the best way to get ahead of DVT.  Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the symptoms below:
  • Mild discomfort or extreme pain in the affected area
  • A warm, tender or swollen leg
  • Skin discolouration from blood that is trapped by the clot

Note: affected areas typically include the calf, thigh and pelvis / groin although it is possible to develop DVT in other parts of the body. Contact your doctor to discuss your symptoms

Being proactive about DVT

If you are already being treated for cancer, it is essential to stay focused on that treatment while remaining aware that you are at high risk of DVT.  Although DVT is a serious condition, you can take a proactive approach to decreasing your risk and noticing warning signs.
  • Ask your doctor about DVT
  • Determine whether you have just one or multiple risk factors
  • Be aware of the warning signs
  • Remember that discomfort or pain may not be cancer related
  • Remember that DVT symptoms are not always obvious or extreme
  • Find out what you can do to reduce your risk click here.

Signs that a blood clot has turned into pulmonary embolism (PE)

DVT can become far more serious, even life threatening, if part of the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs. This is called pulmonary embolism (PE) and you should contact your local emergency room immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms: 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing and dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Coughing up blood


NOTE: Pulmonary embolism is not the same as a heart attack; although the symptoms may sound similar, the two conditions are completely separate.

Early DVT treatment can help you focus on what matters

When cancer is your primary concern, blood clots can feel like a frightening and unnecessary distraction. Fortunately treatments are available and early diagnosis is your best opportunity to address the problem and get back to what matters. To read more about the importance of treatment and what options your doctor may recommend click here

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