Venous thromboembolism (VTE), a common complication in patients with cancer, is associated with increased risk of morbidity, mortality, and recurrent VTE. Risk factors for VTE in cancer patients include the type and stage of cancer, comorbidities, age, major surgery, and active chemotherapy. Evidence-based guidelines for thromboprophylaxis in cancer patients have been published: the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and American Society for Clinical Oncology guidelines recommend thromboprophylaxis for hospitalized cancer patients, while the American College of Chest Physician guidelines recommend thromboprophylaxis for surgical patients with cancer and bedridden cancer patients with an acute medical illness. Guidelines do not generally recommend routine thromboprophylaxis in ambulatory patients during chemotherapy, but there is evidence that some of these patients are at risk of VTE; some may be at higher risk while on active chemotherapy. Approaches are needed to identify those patients most likely to benefit from thromboprophylaxis, and, to this end, a risk assessment model has been developed and validated. Despite the benefits, many at-risk patients do not receive any thromboprophylaxis, or receive prophylaxis that is not compliant with guideline recommendations. Quality improvement initiatives have been developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, National Quality Forum, and Joint Commission to encourage closure of the gap between guideline recommendations and clinical practice for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of VTE in hospitalized patients. Health-care institutions and providers need to take seriously the burden of VTE, improve prophylaxis rates in patients with cancer, and address the need for prophylaxis across the patient continuum.
Cancer – Venous thromboembolism – Prophylaxis – Anticoagulation – Quality improvement