Patients who take a commonly prescribed breast cancer drug, Tamoxifen (learn more about Tamoxifen here) are at an increased risk of developing blood clots. Researchers have discovered that this risk is much greater (500% higher) in some patients with a specific genetic mutation, called “Factor 5 Leiden” or FVL mutation.
You can get tested for the FVL mutation. It’s a simple blood test. Ask your oncologist about it.
In my opinion, any patient who is on Tamoxifen and who is already at a high risk of blood clots (see the list of risk factors, below) should be offered this test. If you carry this mutation, you may be offered alternative medications (i.e. aromatase inhibitors) with no increased risk of blood clots.
Risk factors for blood clots
(*if you take Tamoxifen and have any of these risk factors, you will be at an even greater risk of blood clots*)?
- Overweight and obesity
- Have had a blood clot before
- Have a family member who has had a blood clot
- Inherited blood clotting problems
- Have had cancer or are being treated for it
- Other heart conditions
- High levels of homocysteine, a protein component in the blood
- Hormone treatment (birth control pills or menopausal hormone replacement therapy)
- Have a special port the doctor put in your body to give you medicine
- Varicose veins
- Not being physically active for a period of time:
- Have had recent surgery
- Have broken a bone (hip, pelvis, or leg)
- Have a bad bump or bruise
- Are confined to bed or a chair much of the time
- Have had a stroke or are paralyzed
- Have taken a long trip (more than an hour) in a car, airplane, bus, or train
How do you reduce your risk of blood clots?
- Stay physically active…get moving!Take any medications prescribed by your doctor following surgery that are designed to help reduce the risk of blood clots.
- If you aren’t able to move for a period of time, try to exercise your leg muscles as much as possible. Stretch and massage them frequently.
- If you’ve recently been ill or had surgery, try to get up out of bed and move around as soon as possible during your recovery.
- Keep blood pressure under control.
- Maintain a healthy body weight and avoid smoking (being overweight and/or smoking increase the risk of blood clots.
Did you know that aspirin can reduce the risk of blood clots?
Recent studies have reported that individuals who take a low-dose aspirin every day may reduce their risk of blood clots by 40%. For most people, taking a daily, low-dose aspirin is very safe, however there are risks (read more here.) By taking a daily, low-dose aspirin you might even reduce your risk of cancer development and progression (read more here.)
The active ingredient in aspirin is a compound called a “salicylate.”
Foods that can reduce your risk of blood clots:
Instead of taking an aspirin, you might want to consider consuming foods that are high in salicylates such as:
- Spices, herbs and others:
Other foods that may reduce the risk of blood clotting:
- Omega-3 fatty acids have blood-thinning properties. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Fatty fish (i.e. anchovies, salmon, lake trout, herring, mackerel) and fish oil
- Plant sources (i.e. flaxseed, sunflower seeds, canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil, soy)
- Vitamin E also has blood thinning properties. Vitamin E rich foods include:
- Nuts (i.e. walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts)
- Vegetable oils (i.e. canola oil, sunflower oil, palm oil)
- Lentils (i.e. chickpeas)
- Oats and wheat
*Warning: Discuss with your doctor your risk of bleeding before taking aspirin or consuming large amounts of foods with anti-clotting activity.
Learn much more about FVL here
Learn more about a potentially life-threatening type of blood clot, called a “deep vein thromboses” (DVT) here