Primary cardiac tumors are quite rare, and only 20% of these are likely to turn cancerous. This article states the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of this condition.
The term ‘cancer’ refers to the development of a malignant growth due to uncontrolled and abnormal cell division. It could be primary (the place where the cancer starts), or secondary/metastatic (when the cancer spreads to other areas from the primary site). Heart cancer is an extremely rare form of cancer, wherein the abnormal cell division might either take place in the soft tissues of the heart, or spread to the heart from another part of the body.
Primary tumors that are localized within the heart are usually not malignant, however, secondary tumors are lethal and more likely to turn into cardiac sarcomas. The tumors that originate in the heart are mostly harmless because cell division in the heart tissues stops after a certain point, thereby hindering the conducive atmosphere for malignancy. This makes many cells in the heart resistant to the formation of tumors.
Most cardiovascular diseases cause symptoms such as sudden irregularity in heartbeats per minute, inadequate blood supply, and disruption in the natural function of heart. It must be noted that malignant cardiac tumors might not always cause symptoms, and this condition is diagnosed incidentally during diagnostic tests. Symptoms could be similar to those that are experienced due to other health conditions. These might be mild or severe. Here’s a list of some of the symptoms:
- Fainting and fever
- Heart attack
- Sudden chest pain
- Heart murmur with irregular heartbeat
- Loss of appetite
- Valve dysfunction
- Pericardial pain
- Finger clubbing
- Shortness of breath
- Reduction in atrial cavity
- Enlargement of heart (Cardiomegaly)
- Swelling in pericardium
Elevation in body temperature may not be just a harmless reaction. Possibilities exist that these reactions are a beginning to something more dangerous.
The exact cause of a heart cancer is unknown. However, studies on this subject suggest that lymphomas are responsible for developing tumors within the heart. Moreover, after a malignant tumor develops, chances are that it might spread to other parts of the body, leading to complications. Certain chemotherapy drugs when consumed, have also known to be a cause.
For example, drugs such as anthracyclines, taxanes, and interleukin-2 affect the heart cells, thereby resulting in this condition. Lastly, coronary diseases are prominent in patients, if at all, they have undergone radiation therapy, sometime in the past. When directed somewhere near the heart, radiation may damage the muscles of the organ, thus, increasing the probabilities of an artery disease.
Timely diagnosis is extremely essential to prevent the life-threatening situations that can arise due to the blockage of blood flow to the heart by the tumor. Surgery might be resorted to in case of primary tumors that are not malignant. The size and the location of the tumor, and the patient’s overall health are taken into account while considering the treatment options. In case of a malignant primary tumor, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are employed to destroy the cancerous cells.
Though the treatment can help improve the cardiac function to some extent, the prognosis for malignant cardiac tumors is poor. Therapeutic and supportive care measures can control the condition from worsening to a great extent. The patient is advised to undergo diagnostic procedures at regular intervals.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.