First Cardio-Oncology Centre of Excellence established in Africa

International certification for SA programme on heart health in cancer care

Wednesday, January 18 2023

In a first for South Africa and the continent, the International Cardio-Oncology Society (IC-OS) has certified the cardio-oncology centre at Netcare uMhlanga Hospital as a centre of excellence. 

Cardiologist and certified cardio-oncologist, Dr YT (Trishun) Singh established the centre at the hospital in 2018. This was in recognition of the need for a multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment that requires close cooperation between cardio-oncologists, oncologists and haematologists, to achieve the best possible outcomes for cancer patients. 


“Nearly all classes of chemotherapy and radiation to the chest may cause cardiovascular complication, known as cardiotoxicity, that put patients at greater risk of heart problems. Cardiotoxicity does not just involve the heart muscle, but may also include heart rhythm disturbances, arteries and veins, heart valves, pericardium, and conduction system. A multidisciplinary approach that considers heart health within cancer care is therefore crucial for the best patient outcomes,” explains Dr Singh, who is president of the Cardio-Oncology Society of Southern Africa (Cososa) and represents the Africa chapter at the IC-OS.

“It is no use successfully treating cancer, only for the cancer patient to suffer a debilitating or potentially fatal cardiac incident. While cardio-oncology is well established internationally, there is an immense need for more dedicated centres to care for cancer patients here in South Africa and in the rest of Africa.


“Cardiotoxicity in people being treated for cancer is aggravated if underlying cardiac disease already exists, or if the patient has comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking history and obesity associated with  increased cardiovascular risk. All patients due to have potentially cardiotoxic cancer therapy should therefore have a baseline cardio-oncology assessment by an appropriately skilled cardiologist with cardio-oncology training,” Dr Singh says. 

“In terms of the guidelines and protocols of recognised cardio-oncology societies such as IC-OS, ongoing cardio-oncology assessment during cancer therapy and post-therapy surveillance is considered mandatory. These are some of the important services provided at the Cardio-Oncology Centre of Excellence we have established at Netcare uMhlanga Hospital that can make a tremendous difference to patient outcomes,” Dr Singh says.

“The earlier high risk cancer patients are identified for cardiotoxicity, the sooner we can start with therapy to mitigate these. In addition, the damage to the heart muscle, heart valves, coronary arteries and pericardium due to radiation to the chest, can manifest a few years after completion of chest radiation and these patients require careful ongoing surveillance.”

Wendy Beato, general manager of Netcare uMhlanga Hospital, commended Dr Singh and the team at the Cardio-Oncology Centre of Excellence for establishing access to world class care centred around the unique needs of each patient in this important specialised field of medicine in KwaZulu-Natal. “Although the centre receives referrals from all over the country, we are especially grateful that our local communities can conveniently access specialised cardio oncology services on their doorstep,” Beato concludes. 

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