The term “cardio-oncology” has grown in prominence as healthcare professionals team up to help cancer patients at higher risk of developing heart disease or related conditions.

The increasing success of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation therapies, has produced an unfortunate flip-side: cancer survivors may develop later side effects, such as arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, heart disease and heart failure. As a result, healthcare providers are creating cardio-oncology teams.

In the COVID-19 era, the Cardio-Oncology Program, a collaboration between Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute and Miami Cancer Institute, is even more essential in protecting vulnerable patients from additional complications. The program brings together experts in cardiology and oncology who provide cancer patients with care focused on cardiovascular health during and after cancer treatment. The program is led by Alvaro Gomez, M.D., interventional cardiologist; Socrates Kakoulides, M.D., medical director of Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute’s Ambulatory Diagnostic Center; and Paula Montana De La Cadena, M.D., cardiologist.

“After being referred to the Cardio-Oncology Program, the patient meets with a cardiologist for a comprehensive consultation and evaluation,” explains Dr. Montana. “The evaluation may include imaging to further define a patient’s cardiovascular condition. Then the cardio-oncology team develops an individualized treatment plan.”

The program gives patients with cancer-related heart issues access to “experts throughout the fields of cardiovascular medicine, cardiac surgery, cardiac imaging, vascular surgery, oncology and other specialties,” adds Dr. Montana.

Which patients are candidates for the Cardio-Oncology Program?

  • Patients with existing cardiovascular issues who have newly diagnosed cancer and need to be guided through medical and surgical treatments for their cancer.
  • Patients who have cardiac side effects from traditional cancer therapies and medications.
  • Cancer survivors who need screening and treatment for cardiovascular issues that may or may not be related to their treatment.

According to a new study of women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000 and 2015, most of the women who survived for 10 years or longer after their breast cancer diagnosis died from non-cancer causes, especially heart disease. Researchers analyzed data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER).

“Studies have confirmed the importance of providing a cardio-oncology program,” says Dr. Gomez. “Now that more and more people are beating cancer for longer periods of time, we need to make sure they don’t have to fight other potentially fatal health issues, such as heart disease and related conditions.”


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