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Many Cardiologists Ill-Equipped to Treat Heart Disease in Cancer Survivors

MONDAY, April 29, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer treatments save lives, but they can also compromise the heart in the long run. Now, new research shows that many U.S. cardiologists aren't trained to treat this unique group of patients.

Heart disease and cancer are the two main causes of death in the United States, but advances in early detection and treatment of cancer have resulted in rising numbers of cancer survivors. By 2026, there will be 20 million U.S. cancer survivors, and half of them will be 70 or older.

The combination of an aging population of cancer survivors with heart disease and a growing number of cancer treatments that can harm the heart have led to a growing need for cardiologists who can treat cancer patients with heart disease, researchers said. The field is called cardio-oncology.

"Cardio-oncology is a developing discipline of practitioners who are focused on the prevention, early detection and optimal treatment of cardiovascular disease in patients treated for cancer and who are focused on balancing the cardiovascular and oncologic needs of patients prior to, during and after therapy," said co-senior author Dr. Ana Barac. She directs the cardio-oncology program at Medstar Heart and Vascular Institute in Washington, D.C.

Training programs to help cardiologists care for cancer patients with heart disease are being introduced, according to the paper, published April 29 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

A survey by the authors found that 51% of accredited general cardiology fellowship programs are part of institutions providing dedicated cardio-oncology services, up from 27% in 2014.

Another 33% said they were planning to add these services in the near future, but only nine of the institutions that offer cardio-oncology services had training opportunities specific for the field of cardio-oncology.

In a journal news release, the researchers stressed the importance of cardiologists and cancer specialists working together to treat cancer patients with heart disease.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more on cancer treatment and the heart.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, news release, April 29, 2019

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