How do cancer patients feel about different types of anticoagulants for blood clots?


Ann Hutchinson and Miriam Johnson from the Hull York Medical School, University of Hull, England, explain the background to their longer article selected as ‘Editor’s choice’ in the May 2019 issue of Palliative Medicine.

Prof Miriam Johnson (left) and Dr Ann Hutchinson.

Clinicians are rightly concerned that the burden of long-term injectable anticoagulation in people with cancer and thrombosis is significant. We therefore interviewed 37 people with cancer-associated thrombosis about their experiences of taking anticoagulants in the form of injections and/or tablets. The patients interviewed were taking part in the select-d trial (investigating the relative efficacy and safety of rivaroxaban [tablet] and dalteparin [injection]) run by the University of Warwick.

Patients told us that they found tablets convenient but that they found injections were acceptable in the context of having cancer, especially if they were supported to overcome their initial worries about self-injection. Despite drawbacks such as scarring and bruising around the injection site, they said the injections were a small price to pay to treat the life-threatening blood clots.

“You’re just feeling that you’re actually doing something, it’s a step forward. It’s contributing, me stomach’s not good at this moment, but if I keep injecting me leg’s going down, I can see, look, it’s turning back to what it were.”P4

Although patients find taking tablets easier, many would only choose tablets over injections only if they were as safe and effective as the injections.

“If a tablet would serve the same purpose then I would certainly sooner take a tablet, but … if the injections are an advantage then it’s worth putting up with the discomfort. “P11

An additional finding, confirming other reports  and a recent European survey of over a thousand people with cancer, was that although cancer patients have a four- to five-fold greater risk of getting blood clots than the general population, most of our study participants did not know that they were at increased risk. Importantly, neither did they know the signs and symptoms for which they should seek medical help; hence they delayed seeking life-saving treatment.

“I’d been in pain with my leg for a good week or so, but you just think it’s part of the cancer.” P2

Blood clot

Based on what patients told us we recommend that:

  • Clinicians take both clinical guidelines and patient preference into account when deciding what treatment to offer for blood clots, without undue worry that injections may be too burdensome for patients.
  • All patients should be informed soon after their cancer diagnosis of their increased risk of blood clots and the danger signs and symptoms.

We are working with Thrombosis UK and Anticoagulation UK to disseminate these findings and to raise awareness amongst cancer patients of their risk of thrombosis.

If you are working with cancer patients, please let them know the signs and symptoms that should trigger seeking medical help quickly; they should not assume these are due to the cancer or other medical conditions.

For more information on our study please listen to our podcast, or on the work of our research group see here.

To contact Ann Hutchinson, please email her here  or find her on Twitter @AHutchinsonHull

To contact Miriam Johnson, please email her here  or find her on Twitter @MJJohnson_HYMS

This post relates to the longer article, ‘Oral anticoagulation is preferable to injected, but only if it is safe and effective: An interview study of patient and carer experience of oral and injected anticoagulant therapy for cancer-associated thrombosis in the select-d trial’ by Ann Hutchinson, Sophie Rees, Annie Young, Anthony Maraveyas, Kathryn Date and Miriam J Johnson, published in Palliative Medicine 2019 Volume: 33 issue: 5, page(s): 510-517. Article first published online: November 29, 2018. Issue published: 1 May 2019.

  • Read earlier Palliative Medicine Editor’s Choice posts on the EAPC blog.
  • Follow Palliative Medicine on Twitter @palliativemedj


If you are currently an Individual or Associate EAPC Member you have full access to the Members Only Area of the EAPC website, and the chance to download a free PDF of all ‘Editor’s choice’ articles and many other papers too.  Just click here, enter your email address and membership password and choose from the list of journal articles.

How to join as an Individual/Associate Member, or to renew your membership

  • Individual members are invited to join the EAPC or renew their membership here.
  • Associate Members – all current members of our National Associations are invited to join the EAPC or renew their membership for FREE. Click here.

Dr Ann Hutchinson and Professor Miriam Johnson will both be attending the congress. Do come along to see their posters on breathlessness (PO2-038) and needs assessment in cancer patients (PO2-366) on Friday, May 24. View the full interactive congress programme here. The final programme is also now online! Register here



This entry was posted in EAPC-LINKED JOURNALS, Palliative Medicine: Editor's Choice and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.