From the Journals

Cancer patients unaware of their increased thrombosis risk



More than 70% of cancer patients do not know that they are at greater risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) than the general population. It is up to their physician to discuss this with them.

This link is explained by the authors of an article in Cancer Treatment and Research Communications that reports results of a survey carried out by the European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC). “The aim of this pan-European patient survey was to assess patient awareness and knowledge about cancer-associated thrombosis (CAT), including risk factors, signs and symptoms, and interventions, to better prevent and treat CAT,” write the authors. “The idea was to create a sort of starting point for subsequent communication and information strategies and for comparing the results of any action taken in this area,” they add.

A roundtable discussion that included oncology healthcare professionals, policymakers, and patient advocates was convened to discuss and review the evidence regarding their ongoing concerns of excessive CAT-associated morbidity and mortality, as well as patients’ desire for greater CAT awareness.

“These discussions demonstrated that very little change had occurred over the years and that greater knowledge about CAT was still needed across the spectrum of healthcare practitioners and patients, particularly regarding primary and secondary prevention of thrombosis,” the authors write.

It was from this starting point that the idea for the pan-European survey was born. The ECPC, widely viewed as the “unified voice of cancer patients across Europe,” led the survey. This survey spanned six countries (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, United Kingdom, and Spain) and involved 1,365 patients and caregivers. The ECPC survey result was originally released at World Thrombosis Day in late 2018.

In an interview, Anna Falanga, MD, the main author of the article and professor of hematology at the University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy, reviewed the results and explained how to improve knowledge of CAT among patients with cancer.

“Data support that up to 20% of patients with cancer will experience venous thromboembolism (VTE), which is approximately 4–5 times higher than the general population,” said Dr. Falanga, who is also chief of the department of immunohematology and transfusion medicine and the Thrombosis and Hemostasis Center at the Hospital Papa Giovanni XXIII, in Bergamo, Italy.

“We have known about the link between thrombosis and cancer since the 19th century, but it has taken until midway through the last century for our level of understanding and awareness of the problem to reach its current level. Initially, this was limited to fundamental research, with large advances in our understanding of the mechanisms of the link between the two; it has only been more recently that we have had clinical studies that have piqued the interest of healthcare professionals, who were previously uninterested in the topic,” she said.

Poor understanding

One piece of data stands out from the European survey: Nearly three quarters of respondents (72%) said that before taking part in the survey, they were not aware that people with cancer have a higher-than-normal risk of developing thrombosis. “We asked participants to rate their overall understanding of CAT on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), with the average (mean) score obtained being 4.1. Only 21% of patients gave a rating of 7 or above (high understanding). The average rating was very similar in the different countries surveyed,” write the authors. They note that the survey also assessed how much participants had learned about the topic from their physicians.


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