Blood Clots in Lungs – Pulmonary Embolism vs. Lung Cancer

Blood Clots in Lungs

Blood clots in lungs can be very, very serious and lead to long term complications and serious health disorders. They are caused by several things; however there are some risk factors that make the chance of developing them more likely. For instance, people with certain types of blood cancers are nearly thirty times more likely to develop lung blood clots. And, there are also certain types of gene mutations that have been found to be more common in people who have blood clots in the lungs.

The problem with these clots is that coughing up blood can be a sign of a chronic and long term illness, such as lung cancer, or it can be a symptom of an acute and sudden health problem, like a pulmonary embolism. Even more troubling is that the two conditions can go hand in hand. In fact, a persistent cough that produces blood stained sputum can be one of the more serious and later staged lung cancer symptoms. And, pneumonia, tuberculosis, congestive heart failure and some types of heart disease like mitral stenosis can also lead to blood clots in lungs. Even common bronchitis or the more severe chronic form of the disease can produce blood from the respiratory system.

The difference here is that while coughing up blood clots may unfortunately be common place for sufferers of long term and chronic conditions like lung cancer and bronchitis, it can also be a symptom of a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism refers to an arterial blockage in either one of the lungs, or in both of them. The blockage is typically a blood clot and many times, it comes from the legs and breaks away and then travels upwards to the lungs. Therefore a blood clot in lungs or in just one lung most often times came from somewhere else entirely as opposed to forming in the respiratory system.

One of the most common pulmonary embolism causes is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is a blood clotting disorder that normally affects the veins that are very far away from the blood pumping portions of the body. However, pulmonary embolism causes are not so clear cut, and it has been suggested that persons with cancer are at a greater risk of developing DVT and thus at a greater risk of developing a pulmonary embolism. In fact, people who have certain types of cancer like in the lungs or the blood are at an even greater risk of developing the potentially life threatening disorder and blood clots in lungs.

This can make identification difficult, since it is not uncommon for lung cancer patients to be startled by blood in their sputum when coughing is excessive or they are experiencing periods of exacerbation. This is why it is important that symptoms be observed. If blood or clots appear without any other symptoms or any exaggeration of any symptoms then a pulmonary embolism may not be to blame for the oddly hued mucus. However, if pulmonary embolism symptoms present, then it may be something acutely threatening. Worsening chest pain that is accentuated by eating, bending, stopping or breathing deeply may occur and sometimes the pain can be severe enough to feel like a heart attack. Additionally, shortness of breath may occur and the onset may be sudden. A bloody cough may be present as well. Other signs and symptoms that occur but are less common are sweating, bluish skin, wheezing, swelling of the legs and fainting spells.

Identifying these symptoms can help determine the difference between blood clots in lungs that are blocking an artery and are an emergency and the byproduct of a chronic lung disease. However, it is important that even those suffering from long term ailments understand the seriousness of a pulmonary embolism which can cause sudden death and seek out medical assistance immediately if an embolism is suspected. Pulmonary embolism treatment can include everything from blood thinners to surgery and when the problem is found has a profound impact on treatment, recovery and success.

Pulmonary embolism prevention however is worth more than an ounce of cure and in high risk people like cancer patients, it is important to take advantage of numerous ways to keep arterial blockages from occurring in the lungs. Aside from medications that can help in this endeavor, compression garments, exercise and physical activity as well as some compression devices can also help. Further, maintaining the health of the lungs and keeping blood flowing freely throughout the body is also essential to both preventing blood clots in lungs, and the diseases that cause them like lung cancer.