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Short-Term Increased Stroke Risk After Cancer Diagnosis

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Individuals diagnosed with cancer, especially lung, pancreatic and colorectal cancers, are at an increased risk of having a stroke within the year following the diagnosis. These results were recently published in the Annals of Neurology.

Researchers recently conducted a study to evaluate the potential association between the diagnosis of cancer and the risk of a subsequent stroke – even among patients who did not have any high-risk factors for developing a stroke.

The study included data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare linked database from 2001-2007. Researchers matched 327,389 pairs of cancer patients and individuals without cancer of the same age, sex, race, registry and medical issues. Patients were followed through 2009.

At 3 months following a diagnosis of cancer, those newly diagnosed with lung, pancreatic and colorectal cancer had a significantly increased risk of developing a stroke, even if they had no risk factors for a stroke.
Although this risk did not remain huge (between 5%-6%), it was significantly higher than the 1%-1.5% normally seen among this patient population without cancer.
The researchers stated that it appears that a new diagnosis of lung, pancreatic or colorectal cancer result in an increased risk of patients having a stroke within the first few months of their cancer diagnosis.

Patients newly diagnosed with cancer should speak with their healthcare provider regarding the early warning signs of a stroke, as prompt treatment is essential in reducing the risk of subsequent side-effects.

Reference: Kamel H, Reiner A, Navi B, et al. Association between incident cancer and subsequent stroke. Annals of Neurology. Published online January 7, 2015. DOI: 10.1002/ana.24325