Heart Cancer: Symptoms, Complications, and Treatment

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What is Heart Cancer?

Heart cancer is an extremely rare form of cancer that arises in the heart. Malignant tumours that grow in the heart are most often sarcomas. Sarcomas are tumours that originate in the soft tissues of the body. Most tumours that originate in the heart are benign. The most common malignant tumour of the heart is an angiosarcoma that is usually located in the right upper chamber of the heart. A tumour multiplies and forms irregular masses that protrude into surrounding structures and the chambers of the heart.

How does Heart Cancer occur?

The causes of heart cancer are still unknown as it is a very rare form of cancer.

Who is prone to Heart Cancer?

While the causes of heart cancer are still unknown, there are a few conditions that can make you more prone to heart cancer than others. This includes:

  • Hypertension
  • Prior Cardiac Dysfunction
  • Coronary Disease
  • Smoking – Regular smokers are at a higher risk of suffering from heart cancer.
  • Obesity
  • Age – Heart sarcoma tends to affect patients aged 20-40 the most.


A tumour grows fast and causes significant damage before it is detected.

What are the symptoms of Heart Cancer? How is Heart Cancer diagnosed?

The early stages of heart cancer have no symptoms. As a tumour grows and the disease progresses its symptoms begin to appear. The symptoms of heart cancer are similar to heart disease and can progress rapidly and occur suddenly. Here are a few of the symptoms of heart cancer:

  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Fever
  • Reduced production of urine
  • Difficulty in breathing, wheezing, choking sensation and shortness of breath
  • Swelling around the feet and ankles
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Pink or frothy coloured sputum coughed up. Patients may also cough up blood
  • Obesity
  • Weight Loss
  • Widening of fingertips
  • Bluish colouration of the lips and fingernails
  • Delirium, confusion, delusions, and hallucinations

Diagnosis

Diagnosing heart cancer can prove to be quite difficult. The symptoms of heart cancer are similar to heart disease and heart cancer is rare. Heart cancer symptoms like heart failure, heart murmurs and abnormal beating rhythms of the heart can only be diagnosed after evaluating all symptoms, related history and diagnostic tests. Secondary heart tumours are tested in patients having cancer in other parts of the body with symptoms of heart abnormality. Here are a few tests that are conducted if heart cancer is suspected:

  • Echocardiogram
  • Blood Tests
  • MRI or CT Scan – To identify the tumour
  • ECG – To study the electrical activity of the heart
  • Cardiac Catheterization – To identify the type of tumour
  • Coronary Angiography – To diagnose tumours

What are the complications of a Heart Cancer?

The complications of heart cancer can be life-threatening. They include:

  • Heart Failure
  • Irregular Heart Rhythm
  • Metastasis – The spreading of the cancer to surrounding organs and other parts of the body
  • Tumour Emboli – Fragments of the tumour may break off and enter the blood stream. This may block blood flow to various parts of the body and may lead to a stroke or other complications

What is the treatment for Heart Cancer?

The goal of heart cancer treatment is a permanent cure for the cancer if possible and to manage the symptoms of the disease. Treatment for heart cancer includes the following methods:


  • You may opt for surgery to remove the tumour and preserve the functioning of the heart. Complete resection is usually not possible for primary heart tumours. In selected cases, heart transplantation may be an option.
  • Tumours that cannot be removed completely through surgery may be administered radiation or chemotherapy to reduce symptoms and destroy cancer cells.
  • Palliative care may be necessary to improve symptoms in serious cases.
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