Cardiac Tumor (Heart Tumor)
Heart tumors, also known as cardiac tumors, occur when malignant cells develop in the tissue
inside the heart, in the heart muscle or in the external wall of the heart. There are many types, but regardless of
the form heart cancer is a very rare cancer. A cardiac tumor can begin to develop in the heart; this is called a
primary tumor. It can also result from cells from another part of the body that have spread (metastasized) to the
heart tissue; this is a secondary tumor. In children, secondary tumors are more common than primary
The good news is
that most cardiac tumors are benign, and most of them occur in children under 12 years old. They have a very
good prognosis. Nevertheless, the prognosis for cancerous tumors (malignant) is not good, but they are very
rare. In fact, it is estimated that less than 10 % of primary cardiac tumors are malignant. Malignant tumors can
invade and destroy body tissues and they often cause symptoms that mimic those of a heart attack.
Most Common Benign Cardiac Tumors in Children
The rhabdomyomas are the most common cardiac tumors, followed by fibroids. These are benign
Rhabdomyomas - The rhabdomyomas tend to appear in the inner walls of
the heart and are usually multiple. These tumors usually affect children less than 1 year. Often, these tumors are
not accompanied by any symptoms. When there are symptoms; they can be taken for heart murmur (cardiac murmur),
irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or heart
More than 75 % of rhabdomyomas are found in children suffering with tuberous sclerosis, a genetic medical condition
characterized by lesions of the skin and central nervous system, bumps, and epileptic seizures. These tumors do not
become malignant and usually disappear without treatment. In general, the prognosis is good.
Fibroids - Fibroids usually affect the left ventricle of the heart.
When these tumors grow, they can interfere with the mitral and aortic valves, which may cause blockage of valves or
leakage (leaking heart valve). They may also interfere with the heart's electrical system, thereby causing abnormal
or irregular heart (arrhythmias). Fibroids are mostly found in children under 6 years. Treatment of fibroids may
require surgery, and the prognosis is less satisfying than that of rhabdomyomas.
Common Malignant Cardiac Tumors in Children
Sarcomas are extremely rare malignant heart tumors in children. The most common are rhabdomyosarcomas, cancerous
tumors that originates in the soft tissues of the heart muscle; angiosarcoma, which can form in any area of the
heart but most commonly affect the right atrium; fibrosarcoma, malignant tumor that arises from
the cells that produce connective tissue; liposarcoma, a malignant soft tissue tumor
that develops in the cells of the fat tissue.
Causes of Cardiac Tumors
The causes of
cardiac tumors are not well known to medical scientists. Although genetic/family history is suspected, a small
percentage of patients with cardiac tumors have a family history of the disease. In a very small percentage of
patients, the tumors seem to be part of another health condition, Carney Syndrome for instance. But most of the
times, the tumor develops without any family history or another apparent cause.
Symptoms of Cardiac Tumors
Cardiac tumors may cause no symptoms in early stages. When they do, the symptoms tend to be similar to those of
other heart defect symptoms. These symptoms include heart failure and arrhythmias. The appearance or absence of
symptoms depends on where the tumor is located as well as the size of the tumor.
Diagnosis of Cardiac Tumors
Several tests are
used to diagnose cardiac tumor: echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart), Computed tomography (CT scan),
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and others. Some cardiac tumors are not accompanied by any symptoms while
others may cause malfunction of the heart which can be fatal. They tend to imitate other heart diseases, which
complicates the diagnosis. However, a parent can suspect the presence of a cardiac tumor in a child already
diagnosed with cancer, especially when he begins to experience shortness of breath, chest pain or/and ankle
Cardiac Tumor Treatment
In some cases, heart tumors disappear on their own and no treatment is necessary. This is observed mostly in
children with rhabdomyomas. However, if symptoms are severe, the health care provider may decide to treat the tumor
to avoid fetal complications. For instance, a noncancerous primary heat tumor can be removed by surgery.
When there are
several non-cancerous tumors or non-cancerous tumor that is too big to be surgically removed heart transplant
maybe considered. Heart transplantation is a major procedure which is performed for advanced or serious types
of heart tumor. In case of primary and secondary cancer and incurable tumors, controlling the symptoms can be
challenging. In short, the treatment must be evaluated and determined based on the characteristic of the tumor and
health status of the patient.