One of the presenting symptoms for mesothelioma can be shortness of breath. Just as mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose because of the many vague symptoms, so are blood clots. Shortness of breath is the common presenting symptom for many conditions – one of them can be blood clots. A blood clot is a gel like mass formed by platelets and fibrin in the blood to stop bleeding. At times patients who have mesothelioma develop blood clots. This can be very harmful because blood flow is interrupted or decreased to its path. Some of the risk factors for blood clots are: atrial fibrillation, prolonged immobility, smoking, birth control pills, and any type of surgery, and clotting disorders.
Symptoms of blood clots in the leg also known as DVT (deep vein thrombosis), can cause pain, redness and swelling. Blood clots in the lung are much more serious and symptoms can include chest pain, shortness of breath and fast breathing. Serious complications can arise if you have a blood clot and it is recommended that you get medical care immediately. A thrombus is the medical terminology for clot. Many times a thrombus forms as the natural way to repair a process that has occurred. Blood clots form when the lining of the blood vessel has been damaged either to an artery or vein. The blood can become stagnant and form small clots which can occlude or block the vein from blood flow from returning to the heart.
A pulmonary embolus is a dvt that has broken off and flows toward the heart and becomes lodged in the pulmonary artery. This inhibits the lung from functioning and can cause serious illness or death. An embolus is the medical term for a blood clot that has moved within the bloodstream to a different location. A couple of things happen to the lung if this happens, the lung becomes compromised because of lack of blood flow and the blood supply is compromised therefore the lung cannot provide oxygen to the body.
The treatment for blood clots whether it be a DVT or pulmonary embolus is to stop the clot from getting bigger and keep new clots from forming. Blood thinners or anticoagulants are used to decrease the formation of clots and help blood clots from getting larger and prevent clots from forming. If you have a DVT, treatment with blood thinners is usually prescribed for 3 to 6 months. If you have had clots previously, the treatment may be longer. The most common side effect of blood thinners is bleeding. Depending on the anticoagulation medication you are prescribed, you may have blood drawn so your physician can titrate the dose of the blood thinner to your needs. If the clot is a pulmonary embolus it can be life threatening. The treatment can be a medicine call thrombolytic. This is a drug that can quickly dissolve a clot. It is used to treat large clots that cause severe symptoms. These thrombolytic are only used during life threatening situations. Another solution is that a filter can be inserted inside a large vein called the inferior vena cava. The filter catches the clots before they can travel to the lung but will not stop the formation of clots.
In caring for mesothelioma patients we often are dealing with clots. They are always a concern. Even with preventative care some patients are still susceptible. When clots are suspected an immediate ultrasound is ordered. Post-surgery, many professionals are anxious to get the patient up and walking for many reasons. One of the reasons is that moving can help prevent clots. So the next time your healthcare provider suggests you get moving remember it could save your life. It is important to also recognize that if you suddenly become short of breath, don’t ignore it- seek medical attention.