Cardiac tumors are rare and usually benign. Cardiac tumor symptoms may vary depending on location and characteristics of a tumor. Cardiac tumor treatment consists of the surgical removal of a growth in order to avoid potential complications with heart blood supply and circulation. Below you may find more detailed information about types of cardiac tumors; factors, which cause cardiac tumors to occur, as well as cardiac tumor treatment options and diagnostics services.
Cardiac tumors are abnormal growths that occur in the heart or heart valves and come in many different forms. Generally, cardiac tumors are quite rare but can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous) and primary tumors (tumors that grow in the heart) or secondary tumors (tumors that start in other parts of the body). In most cases, cardiac tumors are benign, but even they can cause serious issues due to their size and location. Sometimes, small pieces of the tumor will fall into the bloodstream and are then carried to distant blood vessels blockages of blood flow to vital organs (embolism).
What causes cardiac tumors?
Only a small percentage of patients with cardiac tumors have a family history of the condition, however, the tumors can occasionally be linked to other health conditions, such as NAME Syndrome, LAMB Syndrome or Carney Syndrome. In most cases though, these tumors develop without any of those conditions or family history and instead are usually the result of cell overgrowth that either starts in the heart or moves to the heart from elsewhere in the body.
What are the types of cardiac tumors?
- Primary Tumors: Only 1 in 1,000 to 100,000 people are affected by primary tumors, with myxoma being the most common type. Many of these are benign and can develop in patients of any age but tend to occur more commonly in women.
In most cases, the tumor grows in the left upper chamber of the heart at the atrial septum, which divides the two upper chambers of the heart. Although very rare, myxomas can grow in other areas of the heart or in the heart valves. About 10 percent of myxomas are hereditary or develop as a result of other aforementioned diseases.
Other types of benign primary tumors include:
- Papillary fibroelastomas
- Pericardial cysts
Malignant primary tumors include:
- Primary lymphoma
- Secondary Tumors: Secondary cardiac tumors are much more common than primary tumors and do not start in the heart, but instead move to the heart after developing in another area of the body such as the breasts, lungs, stomach, liver, colon or kidneys. They can also be tumors related to lymphoma, leukemia or melanoma.
CARDIAC TUMOR SYMPTOMS
With a heart tumor of any type, symptoms can be mild, severe or non-existent. Often the symptoms of a heart tumor develop suddenly and resemble those of other heart diseases. Primary tumor symptoms often become visible with the change of body position and may include:
- Palpitations or rapid heart rate
- Tightness or pain in the chest.
- Difficulty breathing when lying flat or when sleeping
- Fainting, light-headedness or dizziness.
More general symptoms mimic the symptoms of endocarditis and may also include:
- Joint pain
- Involuntary weight loss
- Fingers that change color, or turn blue when pressure is applied (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- Nail curvature with enlargement of the finger’s soft tissue
- Swelling of the abdomen, legs or ankles
CARDIAC TUMOR TREATMENT OPTIONS
Removing the tumor is usually the preferred treatment option as cardiac tumors can lead to problems regarding blood flow. Whether surgery is needed or not depends largely on tumors’ size, whether it causes symptoms as well as the overall health of the patient.
In many cases, removal of the tumor can be done robotically or using a minimally invasive technique. However certain situations can require open-heart surgery. During the surgery, the surgeon will remove the tumor as well as the tissue around it in order to reduce the risk of the tumor coming back. This surgery is very complicated and requires a still heart, therefore a heart-lung machine will be used to take over the work of your heart and lungs whilst the surgery is being performed.
Typically, traditional surgery requires a recovery time of 4 to 5 days in the hospital, with 6 weeks total recovery time. If the tumor is removed using a robotic or minimally invasive approach however, your hospital stay will more likely be shortened, with a full recovery within 2- 3 weeks.
You will need to have an echocardiogram every year post surgery to ensure the tumor has not returned and that there are no new growths forming.
HOW IS A CARDIAC TUMOR DIAGNOSED?
Primary heart tumors are often difficult to diagnose as their symptoms resemble other heart conditions.
People experiencing heart murmurs, abnormal heart rhythms or unexplained symptoms of heart failure may be diagnosed with a primary heart tumor when a full assessment of their family history is made and once diagnostic tests are completed. People with cancer in other parts of their bodies that present symptoms of heart malfunction are then tested for secondary heart tumors.
If a heart tumor is suspected during the process of diagnosing a heart condition one or more of the following tests may be performed:
- Blood tests
- Chest X-ray
- Echocardiogram: Detection of abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias) using an ECG or EKG
- Electrocardiogram: The use of ultrasound waves in order to produce a moving picture of the heart and it’s heart valves
- Cardiac catheterization: This test helps identify the type of tumor.
- Heart MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, provides additional information that helps with diagnosis
- Tomography: A CT or CAT scan look for abnormalities.
- Coronary angiography: An uncommon test, however it can show an outline of a heart tumor that can be seen on X-rays.