How Can A Swollen Leg Be Related To Cancer? Many people know that leg swelling is a normal part of pregnancy. Or that if your heart or kidneys are not working properly, then fluid can “back up “ into your legs and cause swelling. Unfortunately, one problem that most people do not associate with leg swelling is cancer. This is unfortunate, because many people have leg swelling, most specifically an unprovoked deep venous thrombosis causing that swelling, as the first sign of their cancer. What does that mean?
Deep venous thrombosis (DVT), or a blood clot in one of the deep veins in the leg, is very common in the United States. This usually presents as unilateral leg (when only one leg swells) swelling, especially of the calf and ankle. As many as 900,000 people a year are diagnosed with a DVT and about 100,000 of them DIE of either the DVT or a pulmonary embolus (PE). A pulmonary embolus is when the blood clot travels to the lung and causes the death of a part of the lung. Most of the time, a DVT is provoked, or has a cause. Common reasons for a DVT include long car or plane rides, having orthopedic or other surgery, being on bedrest or being very sedentary, being on birth control pills, or having unusual proteins in the blood that cause one to clot more easily.
Sometimes, however, a patient develops a blood clot without having a history of one of these things. When that happens, it is VERY important to be worked up for the possibility of a hidden cancer. This is because studies have shown that if someone develops a DVT with none of the “normal” risk factors, the chance of diagnosing cancer in that patient is one in ten in the first year after the DVT.
It is therefore very important that if you are told you have a DVT, that you be screened for cancer. This can be done simply with a thorough history and physical, some lab work, and possibly some Xrays, depending on your history. It is important NOT to just go to the urgent care, be told you have a blood clot, and just take your blood thinners. Please go see a vascular surgeon who can both manage the medication for you blood clot, follow it up with ultrasounds, and do the proper work-up to ensure that it is not the sign of something bad.
South Bay Vascular Center and Vein Center specializes in the treatment of DVT and Swollen Legs. If you or anyone you know suffers from blood clots (DVT’s) or swollen legs, please call our office to schedule a consultation at 408-376-3626