According to a new study, patients with new cases of cancer face a heightened risk of stroke in the months immediately following their diagnoses. The risk escalates with the aggressiveness of the disease.
The study was conducted by Weil Cornell Medical College researchers in collaboration with researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and was published in the Annals of Neurology.
These findings are significant, because they demonstrate the cancer increases the risk of stroke independently of high blood pressure of diabetes, already established stroke risk factors.
Doctors and patients alike should take this data seriously as stroke often leads to death and disability, especially if it is not quickly diagnosed and treated with clot-busting medicines. Patients and their doctors should be vigilant for symptoms and signs of stroke and should immediately call 911 if they occur.
In addition, researchers discovered that strokes often preclude or delay cancer treatments, resulting in reduced survival.
The link was uncovered after reviewing Medicare claims submitted from 2001 to 2009 by patients ages 66 years or older diagnosed with breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancer – the four most common malignant cancer types. Clotting events including stroke are frequently associated with that type o tumor.
The study found that cancer patients had a significantly elevated risk of stroke compared to their cancer-free cohorts when the intensity of chemotherapy, radiation and other therapies is generally highest.
Furthermore, the risk was highest amid patients with lung, pancreas and colorectal cancer, which are often diagnosed in advanced stages. Patients with breast and prostate cancer had the lowest risk in the group, both cancers which are often discovered in early stages. This means that there is a correlation between the risk of stroke and the aggressiveness of the cancer.
The common theory is that cancer and its treatments affect blood vessels and the body’s clotting system, which causes the blood to thicken.