Cardiac tumours

Cardiac tumours are growths in the heart muscle or its adjacent structures. They are divided into benign and malignant. The most common tumour is atrial myxoma, but there are many other types including lipomas, fibromas, rhabdomyomas and papillary fibroelastomas.

Fortunately tumours of the heart are not very frequent. The most common type of primary cardiac tumour is myxoma, which is usually located in one of the upper chambers of the heart, left or right atrium. Most of these are benign. Patients of any age can develop a myxoma. They are slightly more common in women than men. Most times, the tumour grows in the left upper chamber of the heart (left atrium) at the atrial septum, the wall between the two chambers. Rarely myxomas can grow in other areas of the heart or in the heart valves. Other types of benign primary tumours are papillary fibroelastomas, fibromas, rhabdomyomas, hemangiomas, teratomas, lipomas, paragangliomas and pericardial cysts. Malignant primary tumours include pericardial mesothelioma, primary lymphoma and sarcoma.

Sometimes the heart can be involved in secondary tumours, which are more common than primary tumours. They do not start in the heart; instead, they move to the heart after developing in another area of the body (lungs, breasts, bowels, liver, kidneys or stomach) or from the blood cells (lymphoma or leukaemia).

Often a cardiac tumour does not give any symptom, that’s the reason why it might not be discovered for months or years. Normally it is identified on an echocardiogram, a scan of the heart. When the tumour causes obstruction or blockage of one of the heart valve (usually the mitral valve, sometimes the tricuspid valve), it can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, tiredness, palpitations, cough, dizziness and leg oedema (swollen legs).

A tumour in the heart requires urgent attention and normally needs to be removed promptly. Open heart surgery is the best way to achieve a complete resection and excision of the mass, that can then be sent for histology examination, to understand its nature. Mr Alberto Albanese has a good experience in cardiac tumours.

Cardiac tumours dr Alberto Albanese Consultant Cardiac Surgeon International Heart Clinic