Most of the cancers that occur in the heart are benign. Read this article to know more.
The heart is an organ that is involved in the pumping. It is a vital part of the circulatory system. Its main function is to pump and circulate blood throughout the body. It supplies the blood that is purified for all the organs of the body. The functioning of the heart is very specific and can be carried out in a specialized way.
Heart cancer is known to affect the cells and tissue of the heart. They are extremely rare and can cause severe damages. Sufficient medical reports are not available for a complete understanding of this condition. Many research work is based on the studies and experiments of the autopsy. Many types of cancers in the heart occurred as an effect of the occurrence of cancer in some other part of the body (secondary heart cancer).
In some cases, heart cancer can occur due to unknown causes. The other causes related to heart cancer are:
Age: The occurrence of heart cancer is noted in older adults. Only a few cases report the occurrence of cancer in babies and children, and frequently it occurs as a congenital problem (present since birth).
Poor Immune System: People who have poor functioning of the immune system are easily susceptible to heart cancer.
Genetic Cancer Syndrome: Some patients with a genetic problem such as tubular sclerosis can be cause for the occurrence of heart cancer.
Heredity: A family history of heart cancer can be the cause of heart cancer.
There are two types of heart cancers. They are primary and secondary.
The primary types usually begin in the form of fibromas, myxomas, rhabdomyoma, and hamartomas. In the last four decades, the incidences were known to increase.
The secondary type was more common than the primary type. All types of tumors have the ability to spread to the heart. A cancerous type of malignant melanoma has the ability to spread to the heart in most cases.
Most of the symptoms related to heart cancer will be associated with the flow of the blood.
The problems caused by heart cancer are:
The blood to the heart gets altered.
The heart rhythm might also get changed.
Improper blood supply to all the other organs of the body.
In the initial stages, the tumor might be small and can result in only minor changes in the body. Visible symptoms are not noted in this stage. The severity of the tumor or cancer is estimated depending on the size of the tumor and the site of the tumor. The spread of heart cancer also plays an influential role in the determination of cancer.
The symptoms of heart cancer involve the following.
Congestive heart failure.
Coughing up blood.
Feeling tired and weak.
The above symptoms might indicate the presence of other heart problems also. So, it is not possible to make a diagnosis with these symptoms. The cancers of the heart can spread very quickly. The common spread is seen on the lungs, liver, and lymph nodes.
The risk factors associated with heart cancer are:
Obesity: If the person is known to be overweight or obese, then the risk of getting heart disease is higher.
Tobacco: The harmful substances present in tobacco can cause adverse effects on the heart. It can reduce the health quality of the individual.
Viral Infections: Infections like human papillomavirus can increase the risk for the occurrence of heart cancer.
Chemical Exposure: Prolonged exposure to hazardous chemicals can elevate the risk for heart cancer.
The diagnosis for heart cancer involves the following:
Computed Tomography Scan: Computed tomography or the CT scan helps in differentiating between benign and malignant tumors. It provides clear images of the internal structures, and the size and extent of the tumor can be identified.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Magnetic resonance imaging helps in visualizing the soft tissues in a better way. More detailed reports of the scan can be obtained with the help of magnetic resonance imaging.
Biopsy: Biopsy is recommended only in rare cases. Sample tissue is removed as a biopsy specimen and diagnosed for laboratory findings. Sometimes, there are chances for the spreading of cancer while doing the biopsy.
Echocardiogram: This is a very helpful diagnostic tool for identifying the conditions of the heart. It helps in forming a moving picture to depict the functioning of the heart and its valves. It is mandatory to make a confirmatory diagnosis and treatment plan.
The treatment options are planned according to the severity of cancer. They are categorized as follows:
The benign tumors can be easily cured by mere removal of the tumor. If the size of the tumor is large, then removing the tumors that are found on the external surfaces of the heart valves can help in overcoming the negative symptoms. If the patient does not experience any symptoms, then the doctors decide to check the condition of the patient with regular echocardiograms rather than going for surgical options.
Malignant tumors are hard to treat as they can grow and develop faster. The growth of the tumor is restricted with the help of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Chemotherapy is the method in which chemotherapeutic drugs are recommended for the patients. It has a high success rate when it is combined with radiotherapy. Palliative care should be given to patients to help them improve from the symptoms.
Secondary Heart Cancer:
It is the stage where the metastases have started to occur. It is not possible to control the spread by surgical removal of the involved site. If pericardial effusion occurs, then it is possible to remove the collected fluid with the help of a needle or any small drain. The only option available for secondary heart cancer is chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The average survival rate of patients with malignant tumors can be as low as 26.2 months, whereas the survival rate of patients with benign tumors may be about 187.2 months. For the improvement in prognosis, it is necessary to diagnose at an earlier stage so that the condition can be treated in a better manner.
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Heart cancer can be cured where the primary mode of treatment is surgery to remove the tumor. But it cannot be done if the cancer is large or present on the heart's left side. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy will help you to live longer.
The most complicated cancers to be treated are:
- Liver cancer.
- Pancreatic cancer.
- Ovarian cancer.
- Brain (glioblastomas) cancer.
The outlook is very bad for primary malignant heart tumors. One study showed the following survival rates that is the percentage of people be alive after the given period are:
- One-year: 46 percent.
- Three-year: 22 percent.
- Five-year: 17 percent.
In another study trusted source, it has been found that the average survival rate was:
- 187.2 months for benign tumors.
- 26.2 months for malignant tumors.
Cancer in the heart can lead to:
- Blood flow obstruction in the atrium and the ventricle.
- Heart muscle dysfunction.
- Conduction problem.
- The lining around the outside of the heart, called the pericardium, can be invaded by the metastatic lesions of secondary heart cancer and often accumulate fluid around the heart, developing a malignant pericardial effusion.
- Symptoms like sharp chest pain as you take a breath and shortness of breath, mainly when you lie down because the capacity of the heart to pump blood is reduced due to an increase in the amount of fluid that pushes the heart.
- Cardiac tamponade, a life-threatening condition that occurs when there is high pressure on the heart that can pump little or no blood into the heart. This may lead to arrhythmias, shock, and cardiac arrest.
Heart cancer can be caused due to:
- Age - Some tumors can more frequently occur in adults and others in babies and children.
- Heredity - A few can run in families.
- Genetic cancer syndromes - Due to alteration in the DNA (mutation), where most of the children with rhabdomyoma have tubular sclerosis syndrome.
- Damaged immune system - Primary cardiac lymphoma happens most often in people with a poorly functioning immune system.
Stage 4 cancer, also called metastatic cancer, which is the most advanced stage. Even though stage 4 cancer may not be curable, it does not imply that you have terminal (final) cancer. In most cases, treatment aims to prolong survival and improve quality of life.
Cancer does not just occur in people exposed to a disease or with a family medical history. Healthy people are also having the risk of getting cancer because it is also linked to people's living habits.
Eating healthy food can decrease your risk, but it will not eliminate it. Some of the foods that can reduce the risk of cancer are:
- Cooked carrot.
- Whole grains.
Cancer can occur at any age. Cancer is very prevalent in older people because the cells can get damaged over time, which can build up as we age and sometimes lead to cancer. Heart cancers can occur more commonly in adults and others more often in babies and children.
Cancer of the heart is very rare when only one has heart cancer in a year. There are more possibilities of getting heart cancer due to cancer from other parts of the body spreading to the heart.
Heart cancer is most commonly found in young people and more common in men than women. People with a family history of heart cancer, obesity, viral infections, prolonged exposure to hazardous chemicals, alteration of the DNA, and damaged immune systems are more prone to get heart cancer.
Last reviewed at:
08 Mar 2021 - 4 min read
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