There is only one heart and so all the attention must be given to its well-being because a healthy heart is a sign of a healthy body. Anatomically, a human body is designed to grow cells. The cells divide and replace the older cells with the newer ones. When these cells grow uncontrollably and form a mass, that is when a tumor is caused. Tumors may be cancerous or benign. However, all tumors need not be cancerous.
Tumors that originate in the heart are called cardiac tumors. Although this type of heart cancer is extremely rare, but still it can be a lethal threat. Cardiac tumors are growths in the heart muscle or its adjacent structures. Most of the times it is myxoma which is a type of cancer that originates in the soft tissues of the body. Cardiac tumors occur when the cancerous cells are either developed in the heart or migrated from other part of the body. It could be from the organs near the heart which are the lungs or breast. There is a possibility that lung or breast cancer grows to involve the heart or the lining around the heart. Also, cancer from the other organs can spread to the heart through the bloodstream as well.
Cardiac tumors are classified in to two types – benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) tumors. They can be further classified as primary tumors which originates within the heart or secondary tumors, which spread from a primary tumor from different parts of the body. While a mushy, gelatinous type of tumor called myxoma is common in adults, rhabdomyomas associated with tuberous sclerosis is common in infants and children. The different types of Malignant tumors are sarcomas, primary cardiac lymphoma and Pericardial mesothelioma whereas myxoma, fibroma and rhabdomyoma are types of benign tumors.
Tumors in the ventricles of the heart blocks the blood flowing out of the heart and as a result there could be chest pain or even a slight variation in the heart rate. Some of the other common symptoms are dizziness, fainting, chronic back pain, fatigue ,shortness of breath, coughing up blood and in some cases, patients experience confusion or memory issues as well.
Cardiac tumors can be identified using certain methods, such as:
· Echocardiogram: It is one of the commonly used tests for diagnosis. The test uses sound to create a moving image of the heart by displaying the structure and the functioning of the heart.
· CT scan: It helps to differentiate between benign and malignant tumors.
· MRI: It provides detailed images of the tumor and helps in determining its type.
Treatment for cardiac tumors depends on the location and the size of the tumor. The patients’ health conditions and age also plays a vital role in deciding the course of treatment.
Treatment of benign primary tumors is surgical excision. This must be followed by serial echocardiography over five to six years to monitor for its recurrence. If the tumor is large or there are multiple tumors, Firstly, the cancerous tumor protruding outside the walls of the heart are removed. Later, complete resection of the tumour is performed to remove the tumors from the cardiac chambers. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are used to treat malignant and metastatic cardiac tumors depending on the origin of the tumor. Systemic chemotherapy or palliation is used for the treatment of metastatic cardiac tumors.
Risk of tumors can be reduced greatly, if not prevented, by avoiding things that can cause cancer. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising and maintaining healthy nutrition habits can promote good heart health while simultaneously eliminating significant risks of cancer. Also smoking or use of tobacco products must be avoided. Adopting a plant-based diet and limiting the consumption of processed meats can lower the risk of cardiac cancer.
Unlike any tumor, the earlier the diagnosis, the more likelihood that cardiac tumor can also be removed and cured. In case the symptoms persist, it is always advisable to visit the doctor at the earliest because life is 10 per cent of what happens to us and 90 per cent how we react to it.
Dr. Brajmohan Singh, Consultant – Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, HCG Hospitals, Ahmedabad