Heart cancer is such a rare condition that few people know it exists. The reason for its rarity is that heart cells do not divide and therefore malignant cells cannot multiply there. Only cells of the pericardium can be subjected to tumor formation. How does the tumor of the heart develop? What is the prognosis for this type of cancer?
Heart cancer: why is it so rare?
The formation of tumors in the body is the result of abnormal cell proliferation (multiplication). However, the muscle cells of the heart cannot divide. This specificity makes their multiplication impossible. The heart thus benefits from natural protection against the development of cancer. However, the pericardium can be the site of a cancerous tumor since this envelope that surrounds the heart muscle is not made up of heart cells, but of connective tissue. Primary heart cancer is therefore very rare.
Usually tumors are metastases from another cancer.
Benign and malignant tumors of the heart
Heart cancers are almost always mild (in at least 75% of cases).
Note: cardiac tumors in children or infants are in the majority of benign cases but can be responsible for sudden death due to arrhythmias or a mechanical obstacle to blood circulation.
The rare remaining cardiac malignancies are found in 2 to 18% of cases during an autopsy. These are :
or more rarely cardiac lymphomas.
Heart metastases could be found in 10% of cancers that have metastasized, the most likely to give metastases to the heart being:
- skin cancer;
- lung cancer;
- breast cancer;
- cancers of the esophagus;
- uterine cancers;
- ovarian cancers;
- kidney cancer.
Secondary heart cancer
Unlike primary heart cancers, secondary heart cancers start from the spread of cancer cells from another cancer that is found elsewhere in the body. The cancers which most often lead to cardiac metastases are cancers of the bronchi, breast, melanomas (skin cancers), leukemias and lymphomas (blood cancers) as well as Kaposi’s sarcomas (due to a herpes virus or AIDS).
The main types of Heart Tumor
1. Benign tumors
It is the most common form of primary cardiac tumors:
It is the most common of benign heart tumors, located mainly in one of the atria.
The term myxoma describes a rare, benign tumor that has only a sparse vascular supply and contains spindle-shaped, fibroblastic cells. There are basically two types of myxoma: intramuscular and juxta-articular .
The best known is the myxoma of the heart, which is usually found in the left atrium (atrial myxoma) and leads to cardiac arrhythmias and blood clots ( embolism ). The Carney complex is a hereditary form of myxoma. Characteristic here is the occurrence of myxomas not only in the heart, but also in the skin, breast, nerve tissue and thyroid gland.
It depends on a heart valve and appears as a rounded and homogeneous formation, attached by a pedicle to the latter, with a somewhat “vibratile” edge and represents about a fifth of cardiac tumors extirpated. It is possible that its prevalence is greater or even greater than that of myxoma, the anomaly being often found during a systematic ultrasound and being sufficiently characteristic not to always require intervention. It is most often small. Very often asymptomatic, the embolic risk seems to be increased if it is large or if it is mobile.
They represent less than 10% of primary cardiac tumors: fibroma, lipoma, etc.
Fibroids and rhabdomyomas are more common in children. Some forms can regress spontaneously.
2. Malignant tumors
They are classically divided into primary and secondary tumors (metastasis). Apart is the cardiac invasion (by contiguity) of an extra-cardiac tumor.
They are rare. These are essentially sarcomas and, much more rarely, lymphomas and mesotheliomas5. The prognosis is poor, especially if it is sarcoma or mesothelioma.
Heart metastases from another cancer are significantly more common than primary tumors. They can be present in nearly 10% of cancers. The primary cancer involved is most often pulmonary, haematological or breast. The site of metastasis concerns in 2/3 of cases the pericardium manifested by an asymptomatic pericardial effusion or which can become compressive. Then come attacks of the epicardium and myocardium, endocardial forms being rare.
Heart cancer: symptoms
You should know that nearly 70% of tumors that affect the heart are benign (hemangioma, myxoma, lipoma, neurofibroma, etc.). Malignant tumors, on the other hand, can be of two types. First, tumors are said to be primary when they start in heart cells. They will be considered secondary if they are metastasized by cancer that has developed in another organ and spreads to the heart.
Among the cancers that can proliferate into the heart muscle are lung cancer, kidney cancer, esophageal cancer or gynecological cancers. In the majority of cases, this extremely rare disease manifests itself by chest pain, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias and loss of consciousness (syncope).
Cancerous heart tumors: diagnosis
To diagnose cancerous heart tumors, tests should be done such as:
- computed tomography (CT),
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Cardiac cancers: what treatments?
The management of heart cancer will depend mainly on its nature and stage of development. Thus, primary tumors are usually removed by surgery, while secondary tumors are more likely to be treated with radiation or chemotherapy.
The use of surgery in this type of metastatic cancer is often difficult to consider. It should be noted that when cancer has developed into the heart, the patient’s chances of survival are extremely low. The implementation of a palliative program is then proposed in order to relieve, in the first place, the suffering of the patient.
Heart cancer: what evolution?
Most primary heart tumors are benign and are removed by surgery. Chemotherapy sessions are sometimes recommended in order to eliminate all the abnormal cells and reduce the risk of recurrence. This is not the case, however, with metastasized cancer. There, the patient’s chances of survival turn out to be less favorable and the patient’s vital prognosis can be very quickly engaged. Management will then focus on the primary cancer causing the metastases, as well as on the implementation of palliative care to relieve the patient’s pain.
The word “cancer” is a generic term for a large group of diseases that can affect any part of the body. We also speak of malignant tumors or neoplasms. One of the hallmarks of cancer is the rapid multiplication of abnormal growing cells, which can invade nearby parts of the body and then migrate to other organs. This is called metastasis, which is the main cause of death from cancer. Types of cancer (in alphabetical order of the area concerned):
Information: Cleverly Smart is not a substitute for a doctor. Always consult a doctor to treat your health condition.