Primary cardiac tumour, or heart cancer, is a form of cancer which manifests in the heart. Cancerous cells originating from the heart are frequently sarcomas, which is a variant of cancer which grew inside the body’s soft tissues. Fortunately, the vast majority of heart tumours are benign.

Malignant primary cardiac tumours are exceptionally rare, with an incidence rate of one in ten million, which is the same odds of being struck by lightning!

Nevertheless, the heart is still vulnerable to metastasising tumours from other parts of the body. Cancerous growths arising from nearby areas, such as lungs, kidneys or breasts, could spread to the heart via bloodstream or lymph nodes.

Aside from that, the heart can also suffer injuries when treating other types of cancer in the body. Radiation treatment, hormone therapy, drugs and especially chemotherapy, can create short term and permanent damage to the heart.

What is primary cardiac tumour?

Primary cardiac tumour can manifest in primary form (benign or malignant) or metastatic (malignant). These tumours can occur within any cardiac soft tissue. Please note that even benign tumours are capable of causing serious health complications to patients in the form of arrhythmias, thromboembolism, pericardial disorders and many others.

The most common variant of heart cancer is myxoma, a benign tumour which accounts for almost 80% of all heart cancers. Other common variants include:

  • Benign: Carney complex, fibromas, hemangiomas, lipomas, paragangliomas and teratomas
  • Malignant: Sarcoma, pericardial mesothelioma and primary lymphoma
  • Metastatic: Melanoma, breast carcinoma and renal cancer

Symptoms of primary cardiac tumour

The symptoms for heart cancer can be divided into three categories, namely:

  • Extracardiac: Mechanical in nature. Include prolonged lethargy, chills, fever, arthralgias, and weight loss
  • Intramyocardial: Systemic in nature. Include irregular heartbeats, hormonal imbalance, and blocked passageways (due to swelling)
  • Intracavitary: Valvular in nature. Weak blood flow, heart failure (or stroke) and valvular stenosis

Please note that symptoms involving malignant tumours are more acute and will worse progressively faster compared to those for benign tumours. As such, treatment must commence as quick as possible to improve chances of survival.


Diagnosis of primary cardiac tumour

Early diagnoses for primary cardiac tumours are frequently inconclusive, or worse, delayed, due to the fact that the symptoms are quite similar to more prevalent diseases and disorders. For more accurate results, doctors will perform the following tests:

  • Echocardiograph: Using ultrasound, this test will assist in locating and visualising the tumours for both atrial and ventricular tumours
  • Cardiac MRI scan: This allows identification of tumour type and characteristics, which will greatly aid in planning
  • Cardiac CT scan: CT scan provide superior image spatial resolution of tumours

Under no circumstances should biopsy be performed since it may facilitate the spread of cancerous cells into the bloodstream.

Treatment and prognosis of primary cardiac tumour

In almost all cases of heart cancer, the primary treatment method is surgical excision. Doctors will thereafter conduct periodic imaging tests over the next five years to monitor for recurrence.

The prognosis for surgical excision is very positive. Survival rate over three years is over 95%.